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Thanksgiving at Walmart: Strikers Plan a Nationwide Celebration for Black Friday

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Black Friday Strike at Walmart by New York City General Assembly

Ah, Black Friday. It's typically the biggest shopping day of the year and, for that reason, the happiest date on the calendar for retailers. On Black Friday, retailers who have been languishing in the red can count on raking in a whole lot of black. Profits galore!  

As usual, Walmart, the world's largest and most profitable retailer, has big plans for Black Friday. In an effort to attract the lion's share of Black Friday shoppers Walmart is planning to roll out even more low, Low, LOW! prices than usual. The secret to Walmart's staggering success is volume . Walmart can afford to sell its merchandise at a steeper discount than any other store because Walmart deals in much greater volume than any other retailer. Droves of shoppers pack Walmart stores in every corner of the globe because shoppers know that they are going to find more and bigger bargains at Walmart than at any other store.

It's like a magical feedback loop: Walmart finds a way to cut prices and, rather than driving itself to bankruptcy, Walmart profits go through the roof. Lower prices guarantee ever-increasing numbers of bargain-hungry shoppers. It's like the world's greatest a win-win strategy. Shoppers get their bargains, Walmart gets it profits, and everybody ends up better off in the end.

Or do they?

There is a tragic chink in Walmart's "populist" armor. While there is no doubt that Walmart loves to deliver severely discounted products to its customers, in order to maximize discounts, Walmart is infamously stingy with its employees. Actually, stingy is too generous a term: when it comes to caring for its employees, Walmart is like Ebeneezer Scrooge on steroids. Walmart's legendary miserliness includes such things as:

You've gotta be kidding me!?! That takes the cake: Overworked and underpaid Walmart employees have got to apply for welfare to supplement their pitiful Walmart earnings, while Walmart executives rake in record profits. Something is seriously wrong with that equation. Walmart execs might think that they have discovered the golden goose, but I'll bet that more than a few of them are in line for ghostly visits from Jacob Marley. 

One may well wonder why the world's most profitable company should be so tightfisted with its employees. I mean, if Walmart is raking in bigger profits than any other company, can't it at least afford to pay its employees a living wage?

Here's where we can draw another lesson from Charles Dickens: Scrooge had plenty of money. He could easily have given poor old Bob Cratchit a raise and still slept on a mattress stuffed with cash. It's just that the bad old, unenlightened Scrooge didn't want to share. The evil Scrooge only cares about one thing: he wants all the profits to end up in his pocket. Scrooge doesn't care about the misery that his profiteering causes. So long as Scrooge ends up with more money in his pockets, the needy can rot and die for all he cares.   

Are there no prisons ? Are there no workhouses?

Walmart has succeeded in maximizing profits for its Scroogey executives by waging a perennial battle against labor unions. The trick to exploiting labor is to keep workers poor and disorganized. Unions, however, have the opposite influence on workers. With the help of unions, workers become better organized and, thereby, improve their negotiating power. Thus, the last thing that Walmart Executives want is unionized employees. If Walmart's workforce unionizes, the next thing you know employees will be asking for living wages, an end to working off-the-clock, health benefits, etc.

How are Walmart executives supposed to afford their vacation homes in The Caymans if Walmart employees demand a fair day's wages for a fair day's work?

Trade unions have been in retreat ever since the US began deindustrializing in the 1970s. Many have predicted a final end to trade unions as the postindustrial society has increasingly come to dominate the US economy. And with the demise of trade unions, profiteering service sector corporations have gleefully hammered one nail after another in the coffin of workers rights. Yet, against all odds, out of the ashes if the industrial trade union movement, a new spectre is emerging. The same spirit that emboldened industrial trade unionists in the first half of the twentieth century has returned to infuse new life into the fledgling activism of postindustrial workers. While that populist spirit has succeeded in sparking new hope among a new era of downtrodden wage laborers, the spectre remains frightening and loathsome to the Scrooges who still lust after every penny of profit that they can squeeze out of their bedraggled employees.

Will the Scrooges ever realize that they, in fact, have more to gain from the return of this spirit than anyone? (Hint: There's more to life than amplifying the misery of the poor.)

God bless the courageous Walmart employees who will risk their jobs when they join the Black Friday strike on Walmart. God bless the Walmart executives who value profit over every other "immaterial" value: health, happiness, generosity, fraternity.

God bless us everyone.

Thanks to the New York General Assembly for the image.

Tim McGettigan is a professor of sociology at CSUPueblo. Tim's primary research interests are in the areas of science, technology, society (STS) and the future and Tim blogs about those topics at the following sites: The Socjournal, (more...)

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Trade unions have been in retreat ever since the U... by Timothy McGettigan on Wednesday, Nov 21, 2012 at 1:10:59 PM
Timothy many thanks for your timely and meaningful... by Otay on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 12:57:40 PM
There is a tragic chink in Walmart's "populist" a... by Timothy McGettigan on Wednesday, Nov 21, 2012 at 1:54:32 PM
is not just Wal-Mart - but every other big box sto... by Doc McCoy on Wednesday, Nov 21, 2012 at 11:40:02 PM
that was formerly used for SLAVERY...even though h... by Allan Wayne on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 10:15:02 AM
Regrettably, his feet (and head) are set in concre... by Gentry L Rowsey on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 10:32:42 AM
Sometimes it's important to fight battles simply b... by Timothy McGettigan on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 10:33:41 AM
Historically, labor movements have accomplished ex... by Timothy McGettigan on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 10:31:20 AM
and it is quite a distant past actually.  Peo... by Doc McCoy on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 5:40:01 PM
To anyone ever, doc? I swear, you would probably d... by Kim Cassidy on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 11:54:12 PM
I accidently gave you a 'thumbs up' thanks for rep... by Otay on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 11:50:35 AM
More than 147 million people plan to shop this wee... by Doc McCoy on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 6:50:28 PM
I can picture you, Scrooge and Jacob Marley waltzi... by Timothy McGettigan on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 7:23:35 PM
Consumerism is what keeps America going - and will... by Doc McCoy on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 8:35:30 PM
You entirely missed the point of my comment, Codge... by Timothy McGettigan on Friday, Nov 23, 2012 at 12:51:39 AM
just because these people aren't formally skilled,... by Textynn N on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 6:47:27 PM
...then what are you going to complain about? In t... by Joe Reeser on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 6:39:10 PM
Scrooge Mart absolutely fits them.Eventually, I th... by Textynn N on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 6:42:48 PM
They're welcome to have as many Scroogemarts as th... by Timothy McGettigan on Thursday, Nov 22, 2012 at 7:28:48 PM