Walmart: Don’t Go There

“I grew up hearing over and over, to the point of tedium, that ‘hard work’ was the secret of success: ‘Work hard and you’ll get ahead’ or ‘It’s hard work that got us where we are.’ No one ever said that you could work hard – harder even than you ever thought possible – and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt.”
―Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.

All that cheap Chinese shit you buy at Walmart comes at a very high, though hidden, cost.

As HuffPost reported today: “Half of Walmart’s one million hourly associates in the United States make less than $10 an hour.”

One 30-year-old sales associate in Mississippi told HuffPost he makes just $8.65 an hour after three years with the company. The sole breadwinner for his family of five, the worker, who requested anonymity, said he relies on food stamps, “not by choice and not without personal resistance.”

The Huffington Post obtained Walmart’s official compensation plan, titled the “Field Non-Exempt Associate Pay Plan Fiscal Year 2013.” It details a rigid pay structure for hourly employees that makes it difficult for most to rise much beyond poverty-level wages.

Low-level workers typically start near minimum wage, and have the potential to earn raises of 20 to 40 cents an hour through incremental promotions. Flawless performance merits a 60 cent raise per year under the policy, regardless of how much time an employee has worked for the company. [Click here to read the full pay policy] As a result, a “solid performer” who starts at Walmart as a cart pusher making $8 an hour and receives one promotion, about the average rate, can expect to make $10.60 after working at the company for 6 years.

These workers have been cowed and intimated for years. Now they are standing up and asking shoppers to stand with them.

Dave Johnson at OurFuture.org wrote today:

You can help change the economy! Big companies use their size and the fear of losing our jobs to force us to accept no raises or even lower pay and benefits. They can use their size to force communities, states and even the federal government to lower their taxes. You can help change the economy by standing with Walmart workers next week. They have the money but we have the people.

A month ago there were strikes at 12 Walmart stores and protests at more than 200 stores. Walmart illegally tried to silence organizers. Now there are strikes planned for “Black Friday.” But Walmart workers aren’t waiting, there are actions going on between now and next Friday, and you can join in.

Walmart is BIG. They are so big they can dictate to their supply chain, the communities where they are located, state governments, and even the federal government. And, of course, their workers. And when Walmart’s workers are paid less, that puts pressure on workers everywhere else.

This is like so many other companies right now, using their size and the fact that so many people are looking for work to force wages down. And this forces pay down for the rest of us. All of this while these companies are reaping record profits for themselves.

You can stand with Walmart’s workers, and demand changes in the way our economy works.

Video from OURWalmart: “Why are we standing up to live better?”

From Josh Eidelson at The Nation:Walmart Strike Wave Rolls Back Through Texas as Organizers Promise a Thousand Points of Protest.

Protests by Walmart workers that are spreading across the country came to Federal Way on Thursday, with between 20 and 30 employees leading a rally demanding better working conditions and pay.

The employees, from six Western Washington Walmart stores, gathered outside the store on South 314th Street, cheered on by at least 200 supporters. Many were from other unions and organizations including SPEEA, the National Organization for Women and One America, an immigrants’ rights group. The large group marched between a staging area at the end of the parking lot and the front of the store, chanting and talking to customers.

This morning, at 10 AM local time, Dallas Walmart store workers are headed back to the picket line. Theirs is the latest in a string of strikes that hit a California warehouse Wednesday and Seattle stores on Thursday. There’s more where that came from: On a Thursday call with reporters, union-backed Walmart worker groups said to expect a thousand strikes or demonstrations spread over nine days, culminating in an unprecedented array of “Black Friday” disruptions. That news follows a major legal settlement by a Walmart contractor that organizers credited to a 2011 sit-in at Hershey’s Chocolate.

Dallas striker Colby Harris emphasized that despite issues with low pay and repeated retaliation, he’s committed to remaining a Walmart worker. “If you leave this job, you’re going to face retaliation in some form somewhere else…” he said last night. “If you change Walmart, and you change corporate America, it can really better a lot of people’s lives.”

Also from Josh, Walmart Ex-Employee Was Handcuffed in Front of Workers

A former Walmart employee was handcuffed Wednesday when he visited his old store to talk to workers about next week’s “Black Friday” strike. Alex Rivera, who was fired in September, told The Nation that Walmart management intentionally misled Orlando police, leading them to detain him for twenty minutes in the store. The incident was denounced by the union-backed workers’ group OUR Walmart, which alleges that Walmart has been breaking the law to keep its workers in line.

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