Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Walmart & Black Friday: Why Support Corruption?

It's a shame and a pity that every year so many financially strapped and desperate American shoppers have to stand in long lines (or camp outside for days) just to squeeze through the retailers' front doors to push and shove their way through the crowds like starving refugees in an attempt to save a few dollars in search of bargains (many times "deals" that aren't always really bargain at all).

The New York Times describes Black Friday as "the single most manic, delirious shopping day of the year" --- when people become animals.

CNBC: "In the final countdown to Black Friday, it's easy to get caught up in the deal frenzy. After all, some 140 million shoppers are expected to crowd stores over the holiday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. Many of them will be aiming for the same deeply discounted products."

New York Times:

"This year, retailers are predicting a so-so year, with just tiny growth in sales. U.S. companies have cut costs by laying off workers rather than by slashing prices. This holiday season retailers have the smallest number of workers per sales dollar in the last decade. While Black Friday can be an amazing stimulus for one day, it can be destructive. If companies end up with lower profits from smaller margins, they may need to fire even more people, thus raising unemployment even further and making shoppers even less likely to spend. Deep discounts could also lead to one of the scariest phrases in economics, “a deflationary spiral,” in which consumers and businesses are in a miserable stalemate — not spending and not hiring."

This Black Friday, Walmart workers are getting ready for their biggest protests yet. But Walmart has already illegally fired protesting workers, and you can bet it will target workers who speak out again.

Walmart has been opposed to unions since Sam Walton opened his first store in Rogers, Ark., in 1962.

Brave Walmart workers are taking a stand again on this Black Friday --- but as their movement becomes stronger, they need our help to withstand Walmart’s attacks.

One year ago, Walmart workers made history when they walked out on strike during the Black Friday shopping rush. Their strike won the world’s attention, and now even high-powered business journalists are supporting their demands.

As BusinessWeek reported last year, OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart) employees defied one of the most powerful companies in America by holding protests at about 1,000 stores on the busiest day of the year for retailers.

"OUR Walmart says it has at least 4,000 members. The protests, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, involved about 500 of them, as well as many thousands of others sympathetic to their cause. [They] are asking Walmaart Stores for more full-time jobs with predictable schedules, instead of part-time work with hours that can change every three weeks—and wages that can provide their families a decent life. They also want respect."

But Walmart fought back. Management has waged a no-holds-barred campaign of terror against workers who speak out, and dozens of workers who led strikes have been fired, disciplined, or placed under surveillance. When workers protest this coming Black Friday, Walmart will likely target them again.

Walmart is the world’s (and America's) largest private employer, with more than 2 million workers around the world, with over 1 million in the U.S. in over 4,600 stores (The U.S. government is, and always has been, the country's largest job creator).

Walmart has tremendous influence over how the economy works. As Charles Fishman, the business reporter who wrote The Walmart Effect asks, "What is the high cost of these low prices?" Walmart's market power is such that many of its suppliers face a stark choice: take dictation from Walmart, or lose half or more of their business. (See my post: Walmart: The Greatest Basis Pointers)

And for 50 years, Walmart has done everything it can to widen the gap between the 1% and the rest of us. The 6 Walton heirs control more wealth than 42% of American combined, while most Walmart workers struggle to survive on poverty wages.

Throughout its history Walmart has been fighting an all-out war on workers, doing everything they can to keep people from banding together for fair pay and respect on the job. But Walmart’s terror-tactics aren’t working. Just a few weeks ago, more than 80 Walmart associates walked off the job at a single store in Florida. Not only did they keep their jobs, they won major concessions from their store manager.

Days later, the strikes spread to Los Angeles, Seattle, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Dallas. And the actions planned for the approaching Black Friday promise to be bigger than ever.

Walmart workers have done an amazing job raising awareness about the corporation's exploitative policies and the consequences for all of us. Meanwhile, the last year has been one long PR disaster for Walmart. Its sales plummeted earlier this year, and opinion polls show Walmart’s favorability ratings amongst key demographics that the company is courting plummeted 50 percent.

And Walmart’s situation is only getting worse. Just this week, the federal government's Department of Labor announced that it’s prosecuting the company for illegally firing striking workers. The National Labor Relations Board has decided to pursue charges against Walmart for threatening and punishing workers who planned to go on strike last year. The agency said that Walmart intimidated, surveilled or punished workers in 14 different states, violating U.S. labor law. The agency also said that Walmart illegally threatened workers in statements made in two news broadcasts.

Walmart's response: "The fact is, we provide good jobs and unparalleled opportunities for our associates." But yet, since 2005 Walmart has agreed to pay about $1 billion in damages related to unpaid work. Meanwhile, Walmart is asking its employees to donate food to the less fortunate.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have also been investigating allegations of corruption by company executives in its Mexican subsidiary, Walmart’s biggest, and a potential coverup by executives at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

Also, a recent article at Salon points to a new report which concludes that, rather than buying back stock to enrich the Walton family, Walmart could use the same cash to give raises to their employees.

"We find that if Walmart redirected the $7.6 billion it spends annually on repurchases of its own company stock, these funds could be used to give Walmart’s low-paid workers a raise of $5.83 an hour, more than enough to ensure that all Walmart workers are paid a wage equivalent to at least $25,000 a year for full-time work." (Many corporations use this tactic to manipulate their stock prices to increase the value of a CEO's stock-option grants.)

And Walmart not only costs it's workers, it costs the taxpayers too. One Walmart store costs the American public over $900,000 per year for food stamps, Medicaid and other government programs That’s because Walmart refuses to pay its employees a living wage.

Not only do Walmart employees need food stamps to get by, but Walmart is the largest place where those food stamps are redeemed. It’s a cycle that grinds employees (and communities) relentlessly down, while driving Walmart revenues just as consistently up --- Why Walmart Should be Public Enemy #1

Walmart & Black Friday: Why support corruption? Because the irony is, Walmart controls so much of the economy, that they can out-compete their so-called "competitors", by making their prices so low that half all U.S. wage earners (making $27,500 a year or LESS), can't even afford to shop anywhere else except for Walmart --- so that even the poorest of the poor on food stamps must also buy their food at Walmart --- so Walmart profits both ways: from the wage subsidies (such as food stamps, paid for by the taxpayers) and from government purchases (the food stamps that are used in their stores) --- so Walmart gets us coming and going.

Sign the petition telling Walmart:

"I'm done subsidizing your profits. Pay your workers living wage!!!"

1 comment:

  1. “Wal-Mart workers are Wal-Mart shoppers, so to the extent that wages have stagnated, it’s not surprising that sales have stagnated as well,” said CUNY’s Luce. “If every employer pays low wages, then no one will be there to buy anything. That’s why this issue is bigger than Wal-Mart.”