Wal-Mart, Amazon and the Swiss Social Wage

During the editing of Carl Proper’s important article below, we made some formatting and other errors that may have created some confusion. We apologize and hope that all errors have been corrected. We hope you will enjoy this thought provoking article.-Talking Union.

by Carl Proper

Carl Proper

Carl Proper

47 percent of U.S. jobs are ‘at risk’ of being automated in the next 20 years,” say Oxford University Professors Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, including most workers in transportation and logistics occupations, together with the bulk of office and administrative support workers, and labour in production occupations.i

The opportunity is massive,” adds Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business. “There are still people who walk around in factories and pick things up in distribution centers and work in the back rooms of grocery stores.”ii

One U.S. CEO, Amazon head Jeff Bezos, is doing his best to seize the “opportunity.” Reaching outside his highly automated “fulfillment centers” – where the remaining human workforce complains of being treated like robots themselvesiii – Bezos proposes to replace UPS delivery people with a fleet of mini-drone helicopters to drop packages on your doorstep, largely untouched by human hands.

Why exploit workers, Bezos appears to believe, if you can just do without them?

There is a lot of evidence that this may indeed be our future.iv

Continue reading

How Walmart Organizers Turned the Internet Into a Shop Floor

Walmart workers and organizers prove ‘clicktivism’ can evolve into offline activism.

by  Sarah Jaffe

 

walmart_strikers_social_media_our_make_change_facebook_twitter_clicktivism.jpg The basic tools of labor organizing haven’t changed in hundreds of years. There’s no substitute for face-to-face conversations about working conditions and what can be done to change them. Organizers still make home visits, and workers still talk to one another in the break room or the parking lot.

But in the new wave of low-wage worker organizing that has swept the country in the past two years, some labor groups have begun to use the Internet to facilitate the kinds of personal conversations that lead to workplace action. As unions, community organizations, workers centers and even “netroots” groups like MoveOn.org pour resources into organizing a massive, diffuse fast-food and retail workforce that had often been written off as unorganizable, the web has provided a cheap, effective tool to reach low-wage workers in ways that are both personal and lasting. In particular, the United Food and Commercial Workers-backed groups OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart have enthusiastically experimented with web tools in their recent efforts to make a difference at the nation’s biggest retailer. Continue reading

NLRB Office of the General Counsel Authorizes Complaints against Walmart

www.nlrb.gov

Walmart_2_cropped(November 18, 2013) The National Labor Relations Board Office of the General Counsel has investigated charges alleging that Walmart violated the rights of its employees as a result of activities surrounding employee protests.  The Office of the General Counsel found merit in some of the charges and no merit in others.  The Office of the General Counsel has authorized complaints on alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act.  If the parties cannot reach settlements in these cases, complaints will issue.

The Office of the General Counsel found merit to alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act against Walmart, such as the following: Continue reading

Leaked documents show how Walmart trains managers to squash worker organizing

by Laura Clawson

Walmart workers protesting with signs saying

Constant vigilance is one of Walmart’s major strategies against worker organization, and store managers are the front-line defense. Managers are trained intensively on how to recognize and respond to signs that workers might join together to fight Walmart’s lousy wages and working conditions—and now Occupy Wall Street has posted leaked documents showing just how managers are trained.One document extensively details Walmart’s views on OUR Walmart and the United Food and Commercial Workers; as Hamilton Nolan sums that up:

The company’s primary argument is an old one: unions only want to organize workers in order to reap more dues. (The dues that workers would pay, by the way, are a big $5 per month.) This is a case of a corporation mistaking a union’s motives for those of a corporation. It also conveniently elides Walmart’s own motivation in arguing against unions so vociferously: Walmart wants to reap more profits, by paying workers as poorly as possible.

Continue reading

Walmart Organizing Dilemma: Publicity Strikes without Publicity

by Wade Rathke

boycott-wal-mart-shareNew Orleans     We are now several weeks past Black Friday, the annual shopping extravaganza that seems to defy logic, but one hardcore, working mother desperate for Christmas bargains defined it as her annual “Super Bowl of shopping.”   Walmart company representatives have described this year’s day after Thanksgiving shopping blowout as their best ever.

OUR Walmart, the UFCW’s Walmart workers organizing campaign, had declared that there would be more than a 1000 protests around the country with thousands of Walmart workers striking to protest abysmal wages and working conditions.  The company claims that there were no more strikers in 2013 than they had seen in 2012.  Yet, clearly giving the rollup it has to be unquestionable that there were more actions in 2013, whether rallies or demonstrations or witnessing or whatever, but were there more strikers and under any circumstances how do we prove the point and move forward?

And, that’s the organizing dilemma.  What happens when you issue the call for these kind of publicity strikes and people come, but no one knows?   Does it have any effect?  Is this a tree falling in the forest that is heard or ignored? Continue reading

Woolworth’s Sit-Down Strike in 1937 Detroit: Lessons for Today’s Low-Wage Workers

by Marc Norton

woolworth_sitinIn 1937, Woolworth’s was the Walmart of its day. The company had transformed the retail marketplace by creating a national chain of stores staffed by low-wage workers, mostly young women. The lunch counters in these stores, serving inexpensive food, were in some ways a precursor to today’s fast food mega-corporations.

So the story of a successful sit-down strike at a Woolworth’s in Detroit gives us some useful parallels for low-wage workers today. In the wake of the Walmart and fast food strikes on Black Friday and December 5, it’s worth asking where the movement is going. What are its goals? How can they be achieved? Are workers getting organized for the long haul? Are we on a path to victory?

The Detroit sit-down electrified the nation at the time, but has been relegated to a footnote in mainstream history, even among labor historians. A recent pamphlet by history professor Dana Frank at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) should resurrect this history and its lessons. Continue reading

Black Friday Actions Empower Wal-Mart Workers

Wal-Mart touts a caring culture. Now, its workers are caring for each other by speaking out.

by  Sarah Jaffe

Colby Harris, a Texas Wal-Mart worker fired after striking, traveled to New Jersey to inspire other Wal-Mart workers at a November 29 'Black Friday' action. (Sarah Jaffe)

Colby Harris, a Texas Wal-Mart worker fired after striking, traveled to New Jersey to inspire other Wal-Mart workers at a November 29 ‘Black Friday’ action. (Sarah Jaffe)

‘When I saw the food bins in Ohio, it made me think, “Employees are not just hungry on Thanksgiving, they’re hungry every day because they’re getting paid low wages,” ‘ says Tiffany Beroid, a worker at a Wal-Mart in Laurel, Md.

“I’ve come today to represent all the silent Wal-Mart workers that are afraid to stand up for their rights,” Elaine Rozier, a Wal-Mart employee of eight years, told a crowd of about 150 labor activists and community supporters—accompanied by raucous musicians with Occupy Guitarmy and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra—on Friday in Secaucus, N.J., across the street from a well-guarded Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club (the wholesale club owned by Wal-Mart and named for the company’s celebrated founder, Sam Walton). “I’m standing up for my rights, my kids, my grandkids, and their kids,” Rozier said.

Perhaps because of the fear she mentioned, Rozier, who comes from Miami, was one of the only identified Wal-Mart employees in the crowd. Along with Mark Bowers and Colby Harris, two Wal-Mart workers from Texas, Rozier traveled to New Jersey for Black Friday, Wal-Mart’s biggest retail sales day, to demonstrate to the workers inside the Secaucus store that they, too, could stand up for their rights.

Accompanied by ten supporters, the three workers blocked traffic on the street alongside the Wal-Mart, chanting, singing and clapping until police took them away in handcuffs.

The protest was one of hundreds of Black Friday actions organized by OUR Walmart, a United Food and Commercial Workers-backed group of Wal-Mart workers—including Rozier, Bowers and Harris—that has been putting on strikes, protests, and direct actions at Wal-Mart for over a year in support of better wages, benefits and conditions. The first wave of strikes hit in October of 2012, and on Black Friday of that year, some 400 workers reportedly went on strike at stores around the country.

“Stand up, live better” has become the rallying cry of the movement, a twist on the retail giant’s own slogan, “Save money, live better.” On Friday, workers in Secaucus repeatedly echoed the “stand up” line. Continue reading

Since Black Friday, I No Longer Worry About NSA Surveillance

by Barbara Garson

Walmart's neo-Pinkertons  monitoring a  Black Friday protest

Walmart’s neo-Pinkertons monitoring a
Black Friday protest

I took part in one of the 1500 Walmart protests this past Black Friday. It gave me a new perspective on NSA Surveillance.

Well before noon my husband and I were sitting on a sunny bench in front of the Secaucus, NJ, Walmart. To the Walmart security agents, conferring with groups of Hudson County Sheriff’s officers, we must have looked like the silver haired elderly couple that we are. They didn’t seem to realize that we, like they, were waiting for the demonstrators.

“Some of these demonstrators want to get hit by a cop,” a young security man said. Perhaps he was only currying favor with the “real” cops when he assured them that if such a thing occurred that day, no one would later find those pictures on any Walmart surveillance camera. [At the risk of ruining the suspense, nothing remotely like that happened.] Continue reading

Washington DC Area Walmart Workers, Community Supporters Join Nationwide Protests

Here’s a video from today’s Black Friday Protest in the Washington area.

Walmart workers and community supporters in the Washington, D.C. area today protested against Walmart—the nation’s largest retailer—joining 1,500 protests across the nation in one of the largest mobilizations of working families in American history. Workers in the Washington, D.C. area were joined by tens of thousands of Americans in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, Sacramento, Miami, Minneapolis and other locations who called on Walmart to end illegal retaliation and publicly commit to improving labor standards, including providing workers with more full-time work and $25,000 a year. At a protest at the Walmart store located on Richmond Highway in Alexandria, Va., nine people, including one Walmart worker, were arrested in an act of civil disobedience calling for an end to the exploitation of Walmart workers by their company.

Walmart workers strike in Maryland, Minnesota, and more ahead of Black Friday

by Laura Clawson

Striking Walmart workers in Maryland, 11/26/2013.

The number of Walmart workers striking on Black Friday will be small compared with the number of allies who come out to support them at an expected 1,500 protests across the country. But workers are making themselves heard ahead of the big day with small strikes across the country this week, making sure that Walmart’s PR department can’t pretend they don’t exist.Tuesday, workers in Columbia and Laurel, Maryland, bringing letters to managers calling for $25,000 a year wages and an end to retaliation against activists. Tuesday’s actions continued a string of strikes: Workers in a Miami and Minnesota Walmart walked off the job Monday, the Minnesota workers joined by Rep. Keith Ellison. Those followed strikes in Tampa, Florida, and Sacramento, California, in the previous days.

The continuing worker activism gains added momentum from recent stories detailing just how badly Walmart does by its workers, like asking workers to donate food to other Walmart workers or the news that the chain could give workers a big raise without raising prices. <a name=”laura”

Laura Clawson writes for Daily Kos Labor where this post first appeared

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