Right now as you read this, Walmart Workers are on buses and they are caravanning from various cities to Bentonville, Arkansas where Walmart will be holding its annual shareholders meeting on June 7th. They plan to make their presence known by urging Walmart to stop its retaliation against associates who dare to speak out about working conditions. The #Ride4Respect uses the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement for inspiration. Completely appropriate, in my book. The fight for our rights as workers is a struggle for civil and human rights. Workers are American Citizens, and we are human beings. We don’t stop being Human Beings and Citizens when we pass through the doors of our place of employment.
One of the rights guaranteed to working people by U.S. Labor Law, is the right to speak out about the conditions of labor, and to do so without retaliation from our employer. That retaliation is illegal! Walmart’s retaliation has not ceased, in spite of denial that it exists, and in spite of promises to stop this retaliation (which they deny exists!) This is where the Unfair Labor Practice Strike comes into the picture. Striking Walmart Workers are a big part of the #Ride4Respect. This strike is historic as it will be the first prolonged ULP strike made by Walmart Workers. They are taking OUR Walmart’s fight for respect to another level.
Lisa Lopez walks and gives notice of ULP strike.
A Woman of Courage has put on her fighting clothes!
Mother Jones would be proud!
Now here’s the thing. Walmart should not be able to break labor law with impunity. Neither should workers have to put their jobs on the line to enforce labor law. Like any other crime, we should be able to report the crime, and the cops should show up and put the handcuffs on the culprit, namely Walmart….Yeah…right! We were threatened with arrest at our Black Friday Demo in San Antonio for putting our feet on Walmart’s grass! Six squad cars were there in jiffy when Walmart made their complaint.
So, OK, I’m stating the obvious here: Justice is not blind in America. She sees clearly who butters her bread. Walmart breaks labor laws, retaliates against workers illegally, endangers workers, practices wage theft. And if not done directly by Walmart, then by their supply chain. For which they claim no responsibility, but are ready and willing to claim the profits. They break labor laws with the impunity, meaning they know that no one will come to arrest them.
Therefore, it is up to the workers to put their jobs on the line to enforce labor laws themselves. These are low-wage workers who face hardship from the loss of even one day’s wages. Many of them can expect to be out of work for awhile, until their case is settled. Unless, of course, the case goes against them, in which case, they are just plain out of luck.
A 27 page report documenting Walmart’s abusive and retaliatory labor practices can be downloaded here: http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/.
Organizing Community Support
There is a movement afoot to organize Changing Walmart Teams on a community by community basis. I have been on three conference calls in the past three weeks which have included representatives from Making Change at Walmart, Jobs with Justice, and OUR Walmart. All of this is still in the planning stages, so I won’t go too far into it here. But I can say (speaking only for myself) that building strong local, ongoing, support teams is the most important thing we can do to support Walmart Workers.
This is going to be a long fight! We need to organize community support with a view to the long haul. Small, solid support groups, ready to step outside of the comfort zone. Groups that can hang together and offer real long-term support, and not just organized for one event.
Low-wage workers are finding the courage to stand up, we need to find the courage to stand beside them.
Supporting Low-wage workers is in our interest!
Let me make it plain, that I support the Walmart Workers and other low-wage workers because it is the right and moral thing to do. They are our Fellow Workers, and we care what happens to them.
When will we ever learn?
An injury to one is an injury to all!
But I also want to point out that fighting for low-wage workers is in the interest of the entire working class, from the highest to the lowest paid workers. Trickle-down is a crock of crap. I think all of us would agree on that point. In fact, the welfare of the working class is built from the bottom up, not from the top down. The higher the standard of living that we ensure for lowest paid workers, the better for the rest of us. When the boot of the ruling class comes to grind us down, we need to make sure that there is a limit (as a class!) to how much of a grinding we will take. Sad to say, the American working class has never established that limit. We allow the least among us to be ground down into dust.
Nothing has hurt the American working class more over the years, then its willingness (as a class) to buy into the ruling class notion that middle class workers are being robbed by the poor. Nothing. And then add to that racism and sexism, and we are screwed. But we screw ourselves by eating the load of crap that the ruling class feeds us.
We now have a chance to make a real change for the better. Imagine the American working class with Walmart Workers, Fast Food Workers, and Warehouse Workers solidly organized! What a difference it would make for all of us.
I mean, really, sit down in quiet place and imagine that for a few minutes!
Then get up and start working to make it happen!
William Z Foster: The Importance of Organizing the Unorganized
The question of organizing the many millions of unorganized workers is the most vital matter now before the America labor movement. The future progress of the working class depends upon the solution of this great problem.
The organization of the unorganized is a life and death question for the labor movement. To bring the millions into the unions is necessary not only for the protection of the unorganized workers, and to further class ends in general, but also to safeguard the life of the existing organizations. Many of the trade unions are now under such heavy attacks from the employers that their very existence is threatened. These struggles can be resolved favorably to the workers only by drawing to their support the great mass of unorganized….
Failure of the unions to strengthen their ranks now by the inclusion of vast masses of the unorganized will expose them to the most deadly dangers in the slack industrial period that is not far ahead, when the employers will renew their “open shop” campaign of destruction against the unions with redoubled vigor.
True then, true now.
Making Change at Walmart
Organization United for Respect at Walmart
NLRB Employee Rights
Organize the Unorganized
-by William Z Foster
Chicago TUEL, 1926
Chapter I-”The Importance of Organizing the Unorganized”
For further study:
An interesting article on ULP strikes from LaborNotes.com:
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?
Follow the #Ride4Respect
SIGN THIS PETITION
Stand with Walmart Workers/Petition for June 7
Connect with OUR Walmart
Photo from Rick Smith licensed under Creative Commons