Guest Post by author and MacArthur Foundation Chair in History at UC Santa Barbara, Nelson Lichtenstein.
As our consumer-driven economy struggles to regain lost ground, Walmart—the big-box retailer notorious for driving down wages and labor standards wherever it goes—is moving forward with plans to open stores in urban centers nationwide. What could the company’s expanded presence mean for workers and our communities?
Currently, Walmart uses its position in the economy to push low-road work that offers its associates no hope of a career. With such low pay and meager benefits, many Walmart employees who enjoy their job simply can’t afford to stay at the company. Career advancement is limited because only a few managerial positions exist at each store. Read more »
Guest Post by Chair of UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, Ken Jacobs.
Walmart is well known for both its low prices and its low wages, and the drive to keep prices down is offered as a ready rationale for the company’s substandard wages and benefits. New findings show that Walmart can still keep those prices low and pay its workers a living wage.
In a recent study I completed with my colleagues Dave Graham-Squire and Stephanie Luce, we found that Walmart could raise its starting wage to $12, a significant improvement for many Walmart workers, with only the slightest impact on customers. Read more »
Late last month, over one million female employees from more than 3,000 Walmart branches presented their class-action lawsuit against America’s largest private employer to the nation’s highest court. The women allege rampant and widespread sex discrimination by the retail giant, including unequal pay. Read more »
For the past 11 years, the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Business Civic Leadership Center has held an award ceremony to honor and showcase “companies who care.” The Corporate Citizenship Awards are given to businesses that, in the Chamber’s view, make a positive difference in society through community service, philanthropy, skilled volunteerism, and ethical decision-making.
So of course, it’s no surprise to any of us that Wal-Mart has been nominated for the Corporate Stewardship Award. Right? Read more »
Did you miss Mickey Kaus’s anti-union rant in the LA Times on May 3? If so, you didn’t miss much – he took up one of the right wing’s favorite past times: throwing rocks at public sector unions. Our favorite part, though, was Kaus’ gigantic backhanded compliment to the labor movement:
The last century? Where’ve you been, Mickey?
We’re living in the age of Don Blankenship, whose opposition to organizing and profits-over-people mentality lead to the deaths of 29 miners last month. We’re living in the age where Wal-Mart, the biggest private employer in the country, cuts the wages and benefits of its workers despite record profits, blatantly violates labor law- and is seen as a role-model, not a bad apple, by the business world. And we’re living in a time where violating our nation’s labor laws – flexible as they are – results in nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
Critics are welcome to cherry-pick the real or perceived failures of individual unions. The truth is that the labor movement’s job is definitively unfinished, and unions are the best vehicles for workers to advocate for their rights and safety.
Threats to workers’ “lives and health” aren’t relics of the past. They are alive and well in 2010, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. Pundits on both sides of the spectrum would do well to acknowledge it.
(Also see Susan Lowitz’s response to Kaus’s column.)
The Nation’s Chris Hayes was spot on this week in talking about Wal-Mart’s attempt to tell workers how to vote: Wal-Mart’s actions demonstrate how urgently workers need the Employee Free Choice Act.
How do you know you’re doing something right for working people? When Wal-Mart starts “mobilizing” against you.
Today the Wall-Street Journal came out with a disturbing report saying that Wal-Mart is organizing its store supervisors against Democrats and other candidates who support the Employee Free Choice Act .
Unfortunately for Wal-Mart workers, this intimidation is nothing new. It’s actually part and parcel for Wal-Mart’s business plan. When Wal-Mart employees stand up for themselves and try to form a union, they face threats, propaganda, discrimination, intimidation, and even firings in retaliation. Read more »
The National Labor Relations Board just found Wal-Mart guilty of illegally firing a union supporter, bribing employees, and discriminatorily refusing to protect union supporters from the harassment of their anti-union coworker, all in an effort to prevent workers from forming a union at its Kingman, AZ, store.
How is this decision a gift to Wal-Mart? Because it was issued eight years after the organizing effort began—eight years after it could have had any impact on the union effort. Thus Wal-Mart breaks the law, successfully squashes the union effort, benefits from the slow case-handling procedures at the NLRB, and merely has to pony up a little backpay and interest to the employee it fired. It’s no wonder this country’s largest private employer has managed to stay entirely union-free.