Walmart Strikes Spreading Across the US

Inspired by their co-workers’ bravery last week, and by a desire to unite for change, today workers walked off the job at Walmart stores in DallasTexas; Miami, Florida; Seattle, Washington; Laurel, Maryland; and Northern, Central, and Southern California. Read about their incredible story here.

This is a useful column on the issues at stake.

You can send the workers your support in seconds here.

Retail Activism Growing

It has been a busy time for retail workers and their allies around the world.   California warehouse workers wrapped up their two week, 50 mile pilgrimage for safe work, having built mass support for their cause.  In Illinois, workers at a Walmart supplier warehouse are on strike for better working conditions, and 17 supporters were arrested during a large day of action.  In the US, France, and around the world, workers in Apple stores are campaigning for change. Vous pouvez lire cet article sur les problèmes et efforts en France. In India, a national strike was held against proposed changes to the retail sector, which saw shopkeepers, workers, and unionists uniting.

In assessing this growing retail activism, the diversity of participants is noteworthy.  So too is the fact that a wide range of strategies are being used, and that the efforts are both about resisting poor conditions, and proactively proposing new ways to view retail work and workers.

Warehouse Workers on Six Day March for Safe Working Conditions

Warehouse workers in California – who do not currently have a recognized union but who are joining together through Warehouse Workers United – walked off the job this week and began a six day march to protest unsafe working conditions and call for change. You can read more about their brave struggle here, and follow their journey here.

Putting Walmart into Perspective

You can find a very useful synthesis of the relative power of Walmart in this infographic created by Frugal Dad.  It helps us understand just how significant Walmart is, and how it compares to other companies, workplaces, and even to countries’ economies.  The data is further proof of why retail matters, how much retail matters, and why we should be having broad-based conversations about the sector.

Energetic Rally Shows Support for Retail Workers

Retail workers, their family members, friends, neighbours, and allies in the labour movement held a colourful rally at the Target Canada headquarters. A diversity of workers’ organizations attended in solidarity including UFCW Canada, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the United Steelworkers, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, and the Workers’ Action Centre.  This support is another promising sign of the growing retail workers’ movement in Canada.  See stories in the Huffington Post, Toronto Star, and on Mississauga.com.

Zellers Workers Speak Out

Despite the fact that HBC sent a letter to Zellers workers asking them not to speak to the media, some workers are exercising their right to freedom of speech and sharing their personal experiences of the Target takeover and Zellers closures. See this story in the Toronto Star. It notes that Walmart acted differently when it took over Woolco stores in 1994. There are likely a number of reasons for the difference in corporate behaviour, including a perception that the Canadian government and people will tolerate such behaviour and the great number of resulting job losses now, but wouldn’t in the mid-1990s. The current Canadian government is clearly comfortable with Zellers’/HBC’s and Target’s decisions, but I believe the Canadian people still think we deserve better.

Walmart Model Negatively Affects Workers in Retail and Beyond

There is growing evidence of the connections among Walmart’s low prices, low wages, and job losses – in retail and beyond. Walmart is the largest private sector employer in the world, so its actions have wide-reaching effects across industries. This article outlines the impact of Walmart’s model for US workers, as does this Demos study. The pattern is similar in other countries. For example, Canada lost 30 000 jobs in July, with large decreases in both retail and manufacturing. As other large, low-wage retailers move into Canada, things will not improve, unless changes are made.  And there are a number of alternative avenues available. As but one example, my colleague at MIT, Zeynep Ton, makes a strong argument about what companies should do, and how treating workers better actually helps the bottom line. Walmart workers and their allies are also playing a leading role in promoting change. Ongoing job losses, poverty wages, and poor conditions cannot be defended – economically or ethically.