Taking the Pledge: The Black Friday Walmart Strike
Who else is taking the pledge to starve the beast this November? No, I’m not referring to Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, or the voting for the austerity-crazed politicians on Election Day who sign it. I’m talking about joining the striking Walmart workers on Black Friday and depriving one of the world’s most profitable retailers of billions of dollars in revenue.
One would think it would be easy to get a “no” from anyone who you asked would be willing to wake-up at 3 a.m. on a cold November day to fight through hectic traffic and elbow people for $2 toasters instead of stay home and sleep off their turkey coma on the day after Thanksgiving. But despite that fact, Walmart makes a killing, literally, off of “Black Friday” discounts that have led to the deaths of both workers and shoppers in their encouragement of a mad consumerist dash for cheap deals on cheap products.
Imagine if Walmart workers across a wide swath of states refused to come to work on the company’s busiest day, forcing a shutdown of several branches of the retailer’s stores? It would be a huge win for workers over corporate greed and savage consumerism.
If you hate corporate greed, Walmart is a great adversary. They have aggressive policies in place to stop workers from hitting the overtime pay mark (34 hours), paying many of their workers just above the bare minimum wage while the Walton family rakes in countless profits. In fact, the average yearly income of one of Walmart’s minimum-wage workers, $15,080, is the same amount the six Waltons who own the chain make in just 3 minutes of dividends. Those 6 people who own the retail chain have actually amassed more wealth than the bottom 41.5% of Americans.
The callousness of the Walton family is legendary. Heiress Alice Walton drunkenly killed a 50 year-old mother of two with her Porsche and escaped all charges. In 1998, when Walton was pulled over for a DUI for running over a gas pump in 1998, the billionaire screamed at her arresting officer, “I’m Alice Walton, bitch!”
Walmart’s deals come at the expense of workers at home and abroad. The corporate culture of Walmart is concerned only with profits, and views common-sense policies like health care coverage for employees as a burdensome cost. A 2005 memo from Walmart’s vice president of benefits outlined how to remove sick workers from payrolls to avoid paying health benefits. They also force workers to attend anti-union meetings and train supervisors in squashing any effort by workers to organize. And Walmart’s pressure on its supply chain to cut costs as much as possible leads to workers in China and Bangladesh making as little as $80 a month.
Walmart workers organized a strike earlier this year, and peaceful attempts to shut down truck entrances led Walmart to respond by calling riot police, who then made mass arrests and even used pepper spray on nonviolent protesters. Backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, Walmart employees have given the company until Black Friday to address their concerns or face a massive walkout and potential shut-downs of supercenters across 12 states. The best way we can support these courageous workers is by taking a simple pledge to not shop at Walmart on Black Friday, and encourage our friends, family, co-workers and classmates to do the same.
Chances are, if you’re one of my regular readers, you probably haven’t shopped at a Walmart in years. But spreading this information about Walmart to your own social media followings could lead to a major victory for Walmart workers, and a devastating blow to one of the world’s worst corporate oppressors. Are you in?