Workers at Walmart cite poor conditions

by Dave Anderson

Where will the next big movement come from? Fights in the workplace can be the training ground. Photo: OUR Walmart.

Photo: OUR Walmart.

This month, something quite remarkable happened in America. Hundreds of Walmart workers who don’t have a union stood up to the company, knowing that it has a long history of illegally retaliating against its employees. In a high unemployment economy, they went on strike for a short time and protested at the firm’s annual shareholder meeting. They are members of the employee group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart).

In Boulder, the Coalition for Social and Environmental Responsibility in Boulder (CSERB) supports OUR Walmart by picketing the Walmart at 28th and Iris every second Saturday of each month.

CSERB leader Matt Nicodemus points out that this strike was “not the same as a unionized worker joining a company-wide work stoppage. Though she is part of a widespread collective action and therefore within her rights to strike, the associate may be the only one protesting within her own store and managers have all sorts of ways of intimidating and punishing ‘troublemakers.’ It takes real bravery to step out and publicly challenge the company in that way.” Continue reading

Walmart’s Women Can’t ‘Save Money’ or ‘Live Better’ with Wages and Hours Like This

by Sarah Jaffe

ourwalmart_jaffe(June 4) Walmart, the world’s largest retailer (and America’s largest private employer), occupies a rather strange place in the business landscape: a technologically innovative company with a down-home reputation – a low-wage, low-benefit employer that prides itself on a family atmosphere. Walmart masks the lousy working conditions that make its profits with its particular form of market populism: millions of “Walmart moms” can’t be wrong for wanting to “save money, live better”, can they?

But Wednesday, as the company’s shareholders prepare to meet in Bentonville, Arkansas,  a bunch of Walmart moms are aiming at the company’s already-shaky public perception. According to the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (Our Walmart), mothers who work at Walmart stores in more than 20 cities nationwide  are on strike. They’re taking a common media trope and a  key part of the company’s own public image and turning it on its head: Walmart, they say, is not a good place for mothers.

It’s not just the low wages (although a raise wouldn’t hurt):  a new study out this week from the non-partisan think tank Demos  highlights more than just the difference a raise to $25,000 a year would make for Walmart’s workers and others in the retail sector. Amy Traub at Demos looked at the effects of erratic scheduling – specifically on women who hold the majority of low-wage jobs in the sector – and concluded:

The impact of scheduling can be profound: without a stable and predictable work schedule, incomes fluctuate and workers cannot budget effectively.

Continue reading

No Metaphor Here: The WalMartization of Public Education

by Martin Kich

Walmart_2_croppedAlthough the more overtly political spending of the Koch brothers has received much more attention, the Walton Family Foundation has, not surprisingly, been one of the major supporters of right-wing think tanks and public-policy experiments. Long a major donor to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Walton Family Foundation has also become the major source of private funding supporting the development of charter-school alternatives to public schools, contributing more than $1 billion to charter schools over the past decade. Nationwide, more than one-quarter of the new charter schools have received “start-up” grants from the Walton Family Foundation. In the April 25, 2014, issue of the New York Times, Motoko Rich reveals these facts, among many others, about the Walton Family Foundation’s funding of what amounts to extensive Far-Right social engineering. [The full article is available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/26/us/a-walmart-fortune-spreading-charter-schools.html.]

This funding has insured that some of the charter schools have been tremendously successful—for instance, the four schools operated by D.C. Prep in the nation’s capital. But studies are now providing much concrete evidence that there is a very substantial gap between the performance of the most successful and selective charter schools–typically highlighted in materials promoting charter schools–and the majority of the charter schools, which are operated by for-profit corporations rather than by non-profit foundations. These would include most of the charter schools that now educate about half of the students in Washington, D.C. (There is a parallel, here, in the advertising for on-line for-profit universities, which typically features already successful professionals seeking additional credentials though those students are hardly typical of the majority of students at those institutions, who are seeking certificates and associate degrees.)

Continue reading

Walmart Moms’ Walkout Starts Friday

by Sarah Jaffe

For years, Walmart workers have protested the company's low wages and unfair treatment of employees. This Friday, a week before the company's shareholders meet, hundreds of 'Walmart Moms' will begin walking off the job. (OUR Walmart)

For years, Walmart workers have protested the company’s low wages and unfair treatment of employees. This Friday, a week before the company’s shareholders meet, hundreds of ‘Walmart Moms’ will begin walking off the job. (OUR Walmart)

For years, Walmart workers have protested the company’s low wages and unfair treatment of employees. This Friday, a week before the company’s shareholders meet, hundreds of ‘Walmart Moms’ will begin walking off the job. (OUR Walmart)

In 2008, political commentators made a lot of fuss about “Walmart Moms,” a demographic that was supposedly key to the election. The Walmart Mom was an updated, service-economy version of the blue-collar worker: Someone without a college degree, working and raising a family, usually white, possibly religious. She was courted heavily by both parties and perceived, at least in recent decades, to be swinging right.

Six years later, the real-life Walmart Moms are going on strike. According to a Thursday conference call hosted by the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), hundreds of mothers who work at Walmart stores throughout the country will begin walking off the job on Friday, a week before the company’s shareholders meet in Bentonville, Arkansas. The action will culminate in a nationwide strike on Wednesday, June 4.

Continue reading

Not everyone shares in Boeing’s success

by Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Taxpayers around Washington state are trying to understand Boeing’s recent announcement of layoffs, just months after the Legislature met in special session to grant $8.7 billion in tax preferences — the largest such deal in American history.

Our relationship with Boeing has definitely changed.

For decades, Boeing products excelled in the marketplace. The company prospered and the community shared in those gains. Continue reading

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

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