Must read: Josh Eidelson on the strikes challenging Walmart

Walmart workers strike (Photo Student Labor Action Project)

Josh Eidelson. one of an exciting new generation of labor journalists. and sometimes Talking Union contributor, has a must-read article at Salon.com.  Reporting on the spread of last week’s Walmart strikes to more states, he concludes that the “first-ever walkouts by warehouse workers and store employees are a game-changer.”

Here is what happened today.

 For the second time in five days – and also the second time in Walmart’s five decades – workers at multiple US Walmart stores are on strike. This morning, workers walked off the job in Dallas, Texas and Laurel, Maryland; Walmart store workers in additional cities are expected to join the strike in the coming hours. No end date has been announced; some plan to remain on strike at least through tomorrow, when they’ll join other Walmart workers for a demonstration outside the company’s annual investor meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas. Today’s is the latest in a unprecedented wave of Walmart supply chain strikes: From shrimp workers in Louisiana, to warehouse workers in California and Illinois, to Walmart store employees in three states – and counting.

Eidelson discusses Our Walmart, the group behind the strikes.

Both Thursday’s strike and today’s were spearheaded by OUR Walmart, a year-old organization of Walmart workers backed by UFCW. The group is calling for improved staffing and benefits and, for an end to alleged retaliation against its members. Though closely tied to the UFCW, OUR Walmart isn’t identifying itself as a union or calling for union recognition from the famously anti-labor company. UFCW, SEIU, the service employees union, and ACORN supported a different non-union Walmart workers association in 2005, so the concept isn’t new. But the strikes are.

Before these work stoppages, “the other stuff had been so predictable from Walmart’s point of view,” Columbia University political scientist Dorian Warren said yesterday. They’ve always had activists coming to Bentonville. They’ve never had a disruption in their supply chain.” Warren, who’s co-writing a book on Walmart, said the strikes by warehouse workers and store employees are a game-changer: “There was ‘Before,’ and there was ‘After,’ and we just crossed that line.”

The article discusses plans to organize guest workes in Walmart’s supply chain and a new effort to organize Walmart workers around the world.

Last week’s strike also took place as representatives of the global union federation UNI were in town to launch a new Walmart Global Union Alliance. “In Argentina we have a union, so we’re able to have that strength that doesn’t exist here,” Marta Miranda, a three-year Walmart greeter turned full-time union delegate, told Salon Friday in Spanish. Miranda, who was visiting as part of the UNI delegation, said that when she returns to Argentina, she’ll tell her co-workers that “the sleeping giant is waking up.”

Please read it all.

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