That Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, when consumers rush retail stores all day long and even shop now on the very night of Thanksgiving itself—brings in about forty percent of what a retail chain earns the entire Christmas season. These figures are provided via the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and independent studies that have shown how important a day it is for business.
This year, thousands of Walmart workers in over a dozen states and maybe more will strike for the day to make the point on picket lines all over the nation that the exploitive conditions they work under do not support their families and are morally bankrupt and even legally unlawful.
You simply cannot support a family on eight to twelve bucks an hour workers get. Most get under ten bucks.
And the anti-labor practices of Walmart against employees who simply exercise their legal right to organize under the Wagner Act of 1935, and related labor legislation that is not prohibited by Taft-Hartley of 1947, is well known.
But the great Walmart Empire that offers consumers lower prices and a better life depends on even greater exploitation of workers who make what Walmart buys and those workers that are contracted out for in warehouses to keep all that stuff moving to the stores. The low prices and wonders of a Walmart store are made possible by cheating and exploiting the very people who bring it to us on a world wide scale.
Walmart has become a greater influence in setting what the floor is for American working people than our wage and hour laws, Unions that force corporations to give their employees more for fear that a Union will come in to the workplace, and it exerts a negative influence on the supposed “Good Life” it promises.
According to Demos.org were Walmart to establish a minimum wage for their employees of $12.25 per hour, it would cost them 15 billion dollars. If passed directly and entirely on to consumers in the store it means fifteen cents on average per item on each store visit. Walmart spends twenty billion a year buying and selling its own shares to in effect inflate the value of those shares to pad quarter gains on the stock market and please investors and feather the nest of top management—and the Walton family.
By making $12.25 the floor for worker’s earnings, you give them $25,000 a year jobs full-time and take over 700,000 people off of welfare. Many could possibly get off of food stamps as well.
The higher wage would itself be a recovery measure much like providing a Federal stimulus package to these people. They’d spend the money and stimulate economic growth—profits and more jobs. (See Nuns on the Bus: Time to Raise the Minimum Wage on Struggles for Justice)
Along with pausing to contemplate how misdirected all the consumerism is during the Christmas season marking the birth of Jesus of Nazareth who the People of the Way (Christians) say is the Son of God, we can also pause and observe the picket lines this coming Friday of Walmart workers and remember just how much exploitation of labor here and abroad is necessary to produce the low prices and the good life Walmart promises and does not deliver.
Perhaps the AFL-CIO will get its members out not to shop all day but to take time out to support those very picket lines. And then the government of the United States of America via the National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. Department of Justice might consider actually enforcing existing U.S. labor law that gives employees the lawful right to organize themselves in order to better protect them from the very exploitation they are victim to.
One Walmart worker who plans to strike said what radicalized him was not only that he could not support his family on what he earns there, but that he saw too many of his fellow workers crying and under great stress simply working there. The management style Walmart has adopted is not only exploitive but it carries with it an ideological emphasis that psychologically undermines the very people they employ.
Good business practice would suggest that you do the very opposite of what Walmart does as standard operating procedure. But they have exerted contractually on suppliers and sub-contractors such draconian measures that their business model predominates. It sullies all it touches. Real people are hurt by what Walmart does every day.
It is not just the death of old Main Street businesses in small towns. It is the worldwide exploitation of working people. It is that big. Getting Walmart turned around would have a tremendous effect for the common good heard, seen, and felt around the world. It’s long past time for that change. We must all insist upon it. Customers must demand it or boycott this company. The workers striking and acting must be supported too.
Struggles for Justice is asking for the nation to think on just what the floor should be on wages and working conditions and hours for our workforce beyond the legal requirements of old arcane laws. What about a $12.25 floor for everybody in the land for wages? What about a full-time job with time off to be with family? What about changing working conditions where warehouse employees are injured or are sick merely due to the working conditions there? Overseas workers who are exploited sweatshop labor? It is time for a new and basic labor policy in this nation that takes in the moral, legal, and economic conditions of human beings and places profits for abstract legal entities known as corporations in second place.