Eli Epstein-Deutsch, Assistant Editor
The giant retail chain Walmart, long the bete noir of labor activists, has been cited frequently not merely for discouraging unionization, but for systematically quashing it. Managers are given handbooks for union-prevention, anti-union presentations are often mandatory for employees, and reports of illegal firings for union activity are endemic though poorly prosecuted. Union busting coexists with other forms of workplace repression at Walmart, including public shaming, denial of breaks, sexual discrimination, and their notorious night lock-ins. Because Walmart is a vertically-integrated near-monopsony, its practices affect every component of the distribution chain, and allow it to undercut other wholesalers. Indeed Walmart’s strikingly effective anti-labor ethos is integral to its business model. It never faced a major action or strike on the part of its “associates”—until now.
It began not with Walmart’s ever-visible retail outlets, but with warehouse workers in California’s Inland Empire. They walked off the job despite a non-union status that could subject them to dismissal, in order to protest what they said were dangerous working conditions and a climate of retaliation against anyone who complained. Recently, at least some workers in 28 stores across 12 states walked off the job in solidarity, and organizers have threatened a nationwide strike on Black Friday unless management meets demands to stop punitive anti-union measures. These first sparks of resistance inside a historically implacable corporation, which accounts for roughly 2.3% of US GDP, may signal a spirit of renewal within American labor after decades of decline.
In These Times, Why Walmart, Why Now?
In These Times, As One Wal-Mart Warehouse Strike Ends, Another Snowballs
Chicago Herald-News, Rally for Striking Wal-mart Workers Ends in Chants
The Matthew Filipowicz Show, Josh Eidelson on the Walmart strikes.
National Union of Public and General Employees, UNI Walmart Global Union Alliance is launched to support Walmart workers
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