The Way We Live Now: Walmart Finds Another New Low

From Cleveland.com, “Is Walmart’s request of associates to help provide Thanksgiving dinner for co-workers proof of low wages?”:

The storage containers are attractively displayed at the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton. The bins are lined up in alternating colors of purple and orange. Some sit on tables covered with golden yellow tablecloths. Others peer out from under the tables.

This isn’t a merchandise display. It’s a food drive – not for the community, but for needy workers…

The food drive tables are tucked away in an employees-only area. They are another element in the backdrop of the public debate about salaries for cashiers, stock clerks and other low-wage positions at Walmart, as workers in Cincinnati and Dayton are scheduled to go on strike Monday…

An employee at the Canton store wasn’t feeling that Walmart was looking out for her when she went to her locker more than two weeks ago and discovered the food drive containers. To her, the gesture was proof the company acknowledged many of its employees were struggling, but also proof it was not willing to substantively address their plight.

The employee said she didn’t want to use her name for fear of being fired. In a dozen years working at the company, she had never seen a food drive for employees, which she described as “demoralizing” and “kind of depressing”. The employee took photos of the bins, and sent them to the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart, the group of associates holding the strikes in Cincinnati and Dayton…

The strikes against Walmart, which have been staged in the last several weeks across the country, including at stores in California, Florida and Illinois, are focusing on three issues: ensuring that no associate makes less than $25,000 a year, offering employees more full-time work and “ending illegal retaliation” against employees who speak out against pay and working conditions.

The first strike occurred last Black Friday at Walmart stores throughout the country. Though most associates remained on the job, many credit the event with being the public launch of the low-wage workers’ movement. Efforts to raise the minimum wage would follow, including a bill pending before Congress to raise the federal hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. (The minimum wage in Ohio is $7.85.) In the time since, fast-food workers also have staged strikes, demanding the minimum wage be raised.

OUR Walmart won’t say what is planned for this Black Friday, but the group has a news conference scheduled Monday afternoon in Washington, D.C. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Joseph Hansen, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, are scheduled to announce organized labor’s commitment to Black Friday efforts…

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82 replies
  1. 1
    BGinCHI says:

    You know what’s smart business for a chain of stores that sell super cheap shit?

    Keep people fucking poor.

    And leech off the government for assistance so that they can work for your shit wages.

    God I hate that company and the Walton family.

  2. 2
    Baud says:

    Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted in some countries until the mid-19th century.

    Serfs who occupied a plot of land were required to work for the Lord of the Manor who owned that land, and in return were entitled to protection, justice and the right to exploit certain fields within the manor to maintain their own subsistence. Serfs were often required not only to work on the lord’s fields, but also his mines, forests and roads. The manor formed the basic unit of feudal society and the Lord of the Manor and his serfs were bound legally, economically, and socially. Serfs formed the lowest social class of feudal society

  3. 3
    ruemara says:

    Wow. $25k. It’s not a lot, but that’s a few k that can make a difference. It’s like because we work at a non-executive level, we can’t be allowed the dignity of a sustainable restitution.

  4. 4
    Amir Khalid says:

    I doubt this will fly, but maybe someone could suggest that state and Federal governments bill private-sector employees for at least some of the food assistance paid to their workers.

  5. 5
    brettvk says:

    I think that gradually the great American public, and the MSM, will realize that the McJobs are the new career paths of the new “middle” class, and that they will have to be at least slightly better compensated to keep the IEDs off Wall Street. We’ve given away all the good jobs and most of us will stock the canned peas rather than starve, even if it’s just barely not starving. Hopefully some reforms will be instituted before banksters or Waltons have to start traveling in armored convoys.

  6. 6
    Baud says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Did you mean employers?

  7. 7
    brettvk says:

    @Amir Khalid: I’d be pleased if we could just get state and local governments to stop giving Walmart special tax abatements and sweetheart deals. They never, never return enough compensation for “job creation” compared to what they extract from local communities.

  8. 8
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Baud:
    Oops. Yes, I did.

  9. 9
    lee says:

    @Amir Khalid: IIRC Mississippi tried to do that a few years ago.

  10. 10
    JGabriel says:

    Anne Laurie @ Top:

    From Cleveland.com, “Is Walmart’s request of associates to help provide Thanksgiving dinner for co-workers proof of low wages?

    No, they’re meager paychecks are.

    Baud:

    Serfs who occupied a plot of land were required to work for the Lord of the Manor who owned that land, and in return were entitled to protection, justice and the right to exploit certain fields within the manor to maintain their own subsistence.

    So … you’re saying medieval serfs had more rights and were treated better than Walmart workers?

    Sounds about right.

    .

  11. 11
    Cacti says:

    Meanwhile…

    The Walton family is the richest family in the world, with a combined net worth of $150 billion, and have more than a 50% ownership interest in the Walmart corporation. Their family fortune is equal to the bottom 30% of US households.

    The two surviving children of Sam Walton are worth $33 billion each, entirely from inheritance.

  12. 12
    Betty Cracker says:

    Wonkette did a brilliant take-down of Walmart a couple of years back that I read occasionally just to remember what a really first-rate anti-plutocrat rant is…

  13. 13
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Cacti:

    Execute them all, and confiscate every last dime.

  14. 14
    BGinCHI says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: What would we do without these Makers!!??

    Oh, that’s right. Progress.

    /accent on the second syllable

  15. 15
    dmsilev says:

    @Cacti: Best argument for an estate tax that every walked the Earth.

  16. 16
    MomSense says:

    Walmart represents everything that is wrong with our economy. They pay people a pittance to sell overpriced, plastic crap made in China. The owners make billions and meanwhile the taxpayers subsidize their business by paying for their workers’ health care, food assistance, housing assistance, and child care.

    It is immoral and should be illegal.

    Whenever anyone complains to me about “welfare” I always tell them that the real villains are Walmart and the other low wage mega corporations who take advantage of their employees and the taxpayers.

  17. 17
    Jebediah, RBG says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:
    I’d prefer to make them support themselves for a decade on Walmart jobs.

  18. 18
    Amir Khalid says:

    Paying people not enough to live on, and then inviting their co-workers (not rolling in money themselves) to donate food to make up the difference — that’s just rubbing salt into the wound.

  19. 19
    shelly says:

    I thought Walmart was going to provide ‘Thanksgiving dinner’ for employees who work Black Thursday. I guess for the ones who are off, screw ’em.

  20. 20
    Baud says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Even worse, every Walmart store now has one of these.

  21. 21
    Cacti says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Paying people not enough to live on, and then inviting their co-workers (not rolling in money themselves) to donate food to make up the difference — that’s just rubbing salt into the wound.

    I wonder if they passed around a collection jar to the Rana Plaza survivors, asking for donations to help with the funeral expenses of their co-workers.

  22. 22
    scav says:

    @JGabriel: Terry Jones (Python with his historian hat on) had a comparison between the number of days a serf owed his overlord (a UK one, there were worse places) and days the modern employees at a factory had to work for approximation of same. Guess. At least the health care (sometimes only in theory) is better now — indoor plumbing, water quality and sanitation too (more reliably).

  23. 23
    JGabriel says:

    @Jebediah, RBG:

    I’d prefer to make them support themselves for a decade on Walmart jobs.

    I’d prefer that to be a life sentence, not just a decade.

  24. 24
    Peter says:

    Wow, that’s just insulting.

  25. 25
    Chris says:

    @Baud:

    And massive quantities of our fellow Americans are absolutely begging for the honor of being serfs, in the hopes that maybe one day they’ll win the lottery and become the lord of the manor, and if not, at least these filthy [insert Emmanuel Goldstein of the week here] will be serfs too.

  26. 26
    Chris says:

    @JGabriel:

    So … you’re saying medieval serfs had more rights and were treated better than Walmart workers?

    Theoretically.

    In the same way that theoretically, the wealth will trickle down to WalMart workers.

    The lovely thing about social contracts like that is that the powerful never have to live up to them.

  27. 27
    Jebediah, RBG says:

    @JGabriel:
    Works for me!

  28. 28

    Walmart sucks, they are like leeches on the economy.

  29. 29
    It's Not The Fall, It's The Landing says:

    Always low prices wages. Always!

  30. 30

    Tiny bit of good news, my lol made it to the first page of ICHC/lolcats.
    +
    We can all learn something from the kitteh and the tortoise.

  31. 31
    Baud says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    My favorite part about your blog:

    Blogs I read

    Balloon Juice
    I can has cheezburger?

  32. 32
    BruinKid says:

    Oh look, Tea Party Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) was busted for cocaine possession.

  33. 33
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    $55 for a year’s membership at Costco. Speak up with your wallet.

  34. 34
    Napoleon says:

    . . . and here as I sit in Cleveland and ad from Walmart just ran telling me how great it is to work for Walmart and how they pay bonuses, medical coverage, etc, etc.

  35. 35
    Gene108 says:

    The beauty of modern American conservatism is they are not content with the gains the rich have made in the last 30 years.

    They want the rich to get richer. No estate tax. “Flatten” the mariginal rates, for the “reasonable” conservatives that would approach a flat tax. Abolish capital gains tax. And the list goes on.

    Oh, almost forgot they want to abolish the minimum wage, because $7.25/hr is just cutting into their bottom line too much.

  36. 36
    Tyro says:

    Generally, WalMart frowns upon the sort of cooperation and fraternization that these food drives require because it could lead to unionizing. I am surprised they allow that sort of thing in the employee area.

  37. 37
    Chris says:

    @Gene108:

    It boggles my mind how oppressed and downtrodden they manage to feel when they’re literally the only people who’ve made any gains in the last thirty years and the gains they have made have been fucking phenomenal. But that’s not enough. They want more.

    It boggles my mind even more how many of the non-wealthy are willing to rend their garments and cry about the distress and misery of the same poor, poor rich people who have their boot on their necks. Stupid is as stupid does.

  38. 38

    @Baud: I do read other stuff, but these are the blogs I love.

  39. 39
    Baud says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    No criticism intended. I for one rarely leave the boat.

  40. 40
    MomSense says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    very sweet pic.

    Like the lentil recipe, too.

  41. 41
    srv says:

    This is a hell of an opportunity for wingnuts. I’m going to predict some group will announce that they’ll scab any strikers and show up on Black Friday and work for free.

    And Chick-fil-A will provide lunch.

  42. 42
    Cassidy says:

    @Gene108: It’s not about the money. It hasn’t been in a long time. It’s about creating a permanent over class with no accountability or ability of the underclass to change the status quo. It’s warfare and they’re winning.

  43. 43
  44. 44
    mai naem says:

    @BruinKid: Oh, no, he was just sitting there in his car quietly minding his own bizness when President Obama ran up to his car, banged on his car window and forced him to roll down the window and then Obama threw the cocaine right at his face and it made its way up his nose.

  45. 45
  46. 46
    brettvk says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader: Unfortunately, Costco doesn’t serve as many regions as Walmart. There should be one in my town, but I suspect I live too close to Bentonville – I wouldn’t be surprised if WM had exercised influence to make sure Costco wouldn’t find a friend among local politicians.

  47. 47
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    What it proves is that Walmart’s employees live on the brink of disaster, and that working for Walmart doesn’t take them any further away from it. If anything, it keeps them there, because for certain MBA types, it’s doctrine that you can get more out of a worker who lives in fear.

  48. 48
    rikyrah says:

    KAY,

    Please find the first segment of The Ed Show today. It talks about a series of VOTER SUPPRESSION BILLS that the GOP wants to do in Ohio.
    1. They want to strip power from the Secretary of State’s office and place it with the legislature.
    2. Want to change the rules for Absentee Ballots
    3. Want to LOWER THE NUMBER OF VOTING MACHINES
    4. Voter ID – of course

    Please get the segment.

  49. 49
    Yatsuno says:

    @mai naem: Can we start calling scenarios like that the George Zimmermann defence?

  50. 50
    BD of MN says:

    I was just delivering stuff to a few Walmarts yesterday (DVD prepacks for black Friday), and right next to their loading dock entrance is a sign reminding the Walmart associates that they may not, whatsoever, accept any gifts from vendors, no matter how token they may be, because it just wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the associates…

  51. 51
    Chris says:

    @Cassidy:

    @Gene108: It’s not about the money. It hasn’t been in a long time. It’s about creating a permanent over class with no accountability or ability of the underclass to change the status quo. It’s warfare and they’re winning.

    I think “what it’s about” in the end is this: we, the people, have stolen their money, and they want it back.

    You see, the wealth of America is rightfully theirs, and no one else’s. In their worldview, the New Deal was the most gigantic bank heist in American history. Roosevelt, his union thugs, and the rest of the country stole their money at gunpoint and gave it to themselves. When they look at the American middle class suburbia and the safety net, they don’t see a healthy society; they see gangsters living high off of money they didn’t earn. So destroying American society, in their worldview, is simply a matter of taking back what’s theirs, and what happens to the gangsters really doesn’t matter because, well, they’re gangsters. They deserve whatever happens to them. If we didn’t want to be thrust (back) into poverty, we shouldn’t have stolen.

    (This is also why they can’t understand the idea of using the safety net to stave off revolution: to them, that’s the moral equivalent of paying off a protection racket. It may be expedient, but it’s just not right).

    Like I said, it’s mind boggling that anyone can possibly be entitled enough to think like this. And even more mind boggling that so many of their victims believe it too. But if you look at it from that point of view, a lot of their otherwise nihilistic and insane horseshit begins to make sense.

  52. 52
    shelly says:

    hey pay bonuses, medical coverage, etc, etc.

    free bandaids

  53. 53
    Churchlady says:

    @Baud: Under feudalism, the serfs had MORE power than do wage workers today. If they were exploited overly much, they produced LESS. It had its own self limiting dynamic. Serfs controlled the means of production to the point that their authority over what was planted, how it grew, how stock was raised could have an enormous impact on outcomes, and any damned fool of a manor lord trying to squeeze the peasantry found out quickly that it really WAS killing the proverbial goose…

    Today’s wage workers have no such power. Laws enhancing over-border production and tax subsidies to do it have changed the game. The companies may desire to become feudal manors. They’d better beware of their wishes.

  54. 54
    Churchlady says:

    @Chris: I don’t think they are winning. I think they are temporarily scraping off all the goodies, but they are generating new resistance movements such as the union cooperatives being supported by USW in agreement with Mondragon Cooperative Corporation from Spain. When you spawn your own resistance, that’s merely holding for the moment – alternatives are coming in that will make you and your tactics irrelevant.

  55. 55
    Churchlady says:

    @Baud: Right! Serfs had more rights than wage workers today. Thanks – we need to get our historical facts accurate, and you did that.

  56. 56
    Linnaeus says:

    @Chris:

    This is also why they can’t understand the idea of using the safety net to stave off revolution..

    I’m not sure revolution should be much of a worry for our new would-be lords. Even societies with significant inequities can be remarkably stable.

  57. 57
    shelly says:

    “Right! Serfs had more rights than wage workers today. ”
    ***************
    And after the Bubonic plague roared through….well, wouldn’t say they could write their own ticket. But with so few workers left, it was ‘Hey, Lord Essex, you want your barley crop harvested before the cold comes? That’ll be five copper coins, not one.”

    Would most definitely prefer something other than a plague to bring back some income equality.

  58. 58
    Cassidy says:

    @shelly: are zombies a plague?

  59. 59
    Chris says:

    @Churchlady:

    Oh, I have no idea if they’re winning (I’d say they’ve been winning for thirty years, but it doesn’t like as certain anymore). I’m just saying that’s how they think.

  60. 60
    piratedan says:

    @Linnaeus: lackeys are cheap and when times are tough, remarkably loyal…. not too many revolts that I can think of where the folks at the top paid with their lives, Russian Revolution Part II and Marie meets the guillotine are the only ones that come to mind, but I’m sure that our students of history can name a few more.

  61. 61
    Lurking Canadian says:

    @Chris: i wish somebody in a position of influence would make this point, just that baldly. The post-war US (and the rest of the G7 countries) created something the world had never seen before: a working class middle class.

    And the people in charge have been doing their level best to destroy it ever since.

  62. 62

    @Lurking Canadian: My theory TPTB were afraid of the Soviet Union and Communism that acted as a deterrent to giving in to their basest instincts. The fall of Soviet Union has made them reveal their true original colors.

  63. 63
    efgoldman says:

    @Cacti:

    The Walton family is the richest family in the world, with a combined net worth of $150 billion

    FSM in a colander, I’m old enough to remember when the whole federal budget was less than $100 billion.

  64. 64
    Baud says:

    @efgoldman:

    Caro’s recent book on LBJ talked at length about how he worked to get the 1964 budget under $100 billion to get that issue off the table so the Civil Rights Act could get through Congress.

  65. 65
    efgoldman says:

    @brettvk:

    Costco doesn’t serve as many regions as Walmart.

    Hell, I live in RI and the nearest Costco is ~an hour away. But i have two BJ’s (and two Walmarts and two Targets…) within 20 minutes.

  66. 66
    Cassidy says:

    @piratedan: English Civil War

  67. 67
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    @efgoldman:

    FSM in a colander, I’m old enough to remember when the whole federal budget was less than $100 billion.

    Money used to be a lot smaller. My grandfather could fit an entire half-dollar piece inside the ear of a small boy.

  68. 68
    Chris says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I’ve heard that one before, but I’m not sure it tracks. The whole neoliberal revolution started in the late seventies under Thatcher and then Reagan, at a time when the Communist Bloc was still alive and kicking. (If anything, it was a reaction to communism’s strength rather than weakness – between “losing” Nicaragua, “losing” Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, plus the still-fresh memories of losing in Vietnam, plus the economic crises of the seventies, all conspired to give the impression that America/the West was losing everywhere and the Reds were on the march).

  69. 69

    @Chris: I am taking about the post war era before the rise of Thatcherism.

  70. 70
    Chris says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Then yeah, it might be true, but in that case, the fear of communism that deterred our elites in the postwar era evaporated before communism itself did.

  71. 71
    Nutella says:

    @BruinKid:

    And Mr Tea Party Cokehead is quoted

    this unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling. I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease.

    Treatment? Counseling? Struggling with disease? What kind of limp-wristed liberal platitudes are those?

    ETA: via commenter robcat2075 at TPM, Mr Cokehead’s favorite vacation destination is Cartagena, Colombia.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/d.....or-cocaine

  72. 72
    mclaren says:

    Howzbout we just cut to the chase, folks?

    Pass a federal law declaring the Walton family enemies of the state, confiscate their money and redistribute it to the bottom 40% of the U.S. population.

    Instead of executing the Walton family, let’s say they get sentenced to life at hard labor washing diapers for working poor moms. That would be just.

  73. 73
    Chris says:

    @Nutella:

    Ah, he’ll just do what Richard Nixon and George Wallace did and find God. They really do have the most fantastic slate-cleaner there.

  74. 74
    KS in MA says:

    It looks like there will be a demonstration by workers at my local Walmart on Black Friday. I’m planning to join them, and I’m going to write my senators and rep to urge them to be there too. How about you?

  75. 75

    @Chris: Communism was not dead in the 80s but it was in its death throes.

  76. 76
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @Baud: Serfs had rights and there was a basic social bond between them and the nobility. None of that is noted here with Wallmart.

  77. 77
    Fred says:

    @Gene108: Negotiation strategy. Ask for every godammed thing and tell them you deserve it, with a big shiteatin’ smile. Suckers are a dime a dozen and the worse the economy, the better for the grifters.

  78. 78
    boatboy_srq says:

    A food drive for the needy in the community? That’s worth a mention, though it’s a better illustration of what’s wrong with society as a whole. A food drive for the business’ own employees? That’s just crass.

    @MomSense: My response has become that employment at Walmart is Workfare, privatized. It’s not a business; it’s a mismanaged underperforming public service. Privatized Workfare shouldn’t get public subsidies if it makes a profit. And instead we have a handful of grifters making a killing on the public dime while scr3wing the people the communities expected to help by bringing Walmart in. Walmart’s profits roughly equate to its tax breaks: take those away and it’s a break-even enterprise. Public policy (largely at the local, municipal and state levels) is enabling this monster, and enriching a handful at the expense of every last Walmart employee. That has to stop.

  79. 79
  80. 80
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @mclaren: I’m pretty sure that would get tossed out in the courts as a “bill of attainder”.

  81. 81
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Chris: I think that in the US, at least, Reaganite neoliberalism was a reaction to a bunch of things that all came together at once: the 1970s oil-shock/stagflation episode, defeat in Vietnam, stronger civil rights, and the urban crime crisis. The first, second and fourth all seemed to be indications that the existing US-liberal model of government had failed, and the third (combined with the fourth) was a source of seething resentments in a large and swingable bloc of racist white voters.

    The fall of the Soviet bloc did help make it fashionable for the center-left to reflexively bash state socialism, but most of the damage had long been done by then.

  82. 82
    Glocksman says:

    Eh, I hate Walmart just as much as anyone here, but it’s not just Walmart that does this.

    The TJ Maxx DC here in Evansville where I work did the same thing for years.
    They haven’t done it recently though.

    It could be because either their wages went up ($9.75 starting second shift now), or that management decided that it was a waste of valuable management time.
    Similarly, we used to have meetings once a year for an hour to encourage everyone to sign up to donate to United Way.

    Now it’s just a blurb in the weekly agenda.

    Though in the company’s defense, we still get a holiday dinner even though they cut it back to a regular lunch period instead of the hour we used to get.

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