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Blog: Walmart's Blood Money

The movement to hold Walmart accountable is gaining momentum, at home and abroad, from Altadena, CA to Bangladesh.

A Tucson, Arizona, a nonprofit soup kitchen rejected a donation from Walmart, calling it "blood money."   "They pay lousy wages, they're anti-union, and  they're detrimental to small businesses that operate in the area," said the head of the Casa Maria soup kitchen, which is run by the Catholic Worker, according to this article in the Arizona Republic. God bless the Catholic Worker!

And is anyone really surprised that Walmart is complicit in the recent tragic fire at the Tazreen sweatshop in Bangladesh, where over 112 mostly young women sewing operators were needlessly burned to death, 101 years after the Triangle Fire?  In  this  column in the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson reveals Walmart's hypocrisy about its use of sweatshop labor to produce the toys and clothing it sells in its stores.

The Institute for Global Labour & Human Rights is urging people of conscience to write to Walmart's CEO Mike Duke to demand that they compensate the families, whose young daughters and sons were killed, with a payment of $50,000 for each person who was burned to death. You can sign the petition here.

The nationwide protest at Walmart's around the country on Black Friday (the big shopping day after Thanksgiving) was a huge success. The goal wasn't to stop shoppers from buying at Walmart, but to raise awareness about Walmart's practices and to begin the process of mobilizing Walmart's workers to demand more respect, dignity, pay, and benefits. The longest march begins with a single step. The struggle to organize Walmart workers will take years, but the momentum is underway. It is key to challenging the declining living standards of America's workers ad families. I was pleased by the diverse turnout and the enthusiasm at the rally at the Walmart in Paramount, including many folks from the Altadena/Pasadena area.  Nine people, including several brave Walmart workers, got arrested, which was necessary to draw the attention of the cynical media.  

Annette Bernhardt's fantastic article,"What Kind of Walmart Do We Want for Our Society?" explains the overall stakes in this effort to hold Walmart accountable for its abusive practices.  Several years ago, NY Times reporter Steven Greenhouse write, "How Costco Became the Anti-Walmart," pointing out that Walmart's business plan -- low wages, part-time workers, hostility toward unions -- is not inevitable, even most big-box stores.
                    
                   
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
     
                     
                    

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Peter Dreier December 08, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Compared with you, yes.
True Freedom December 08, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Globalization may be harming tens of thousands of workers whose jobs were shipped overseas; however, it helps tens of millions of low income people with cheaper goods.
Peter Dreier December 08, 2012 at 01:42 AM
My response to True Freedom's ridiculous comment above: Slavery may be harming hundreds of thousands of slaves; however, it helps tens of millions of people with cheaper cotton and cheaper clothing.
Ivan G December 08, 2012 at 01:48 AM
What you hav to say is emotion, not logic.
Peter Dreier December 08, 2012 at 01:54 AM
I made lots of logical arguments with lots of facts about Walmart and its business practices. You've chosen to ignore them. The arguments you make have been used to justify all kinds of abuses, including slavery, but you're entitled to your opinion. But, hey, Ivan G. What's your real name? What kind of coward is afraid to give his/her name when engaged in a discussion about public issues? I'm not going to bother responding to you again until you let folks know who you are. I'm not accusing you of being a shill for Walmart, or being on Walmart's payroll. I'm just curious why you won't let folks know who you are.
Steve Lamb December 08, 2012 at 01:54 AM
True Freedom- Lets see.... we ship a guys factory job overseas and then we 'help" him by letting him buy a chinese or equidorian or pakistani $3 tee shirt? You must be joking.
Steve Lamb December 08, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Peter- there is a whole army of Tea Party/Ayn Rand disciples/Defenders of every inequality who post here under aliases because .....well what right minded person would be associated with some of these extreme even fort he 18th Century comments? That and I believe they are mostly one or two guys in a right wing boiler room someplace.
Ivan G December 08, 2012 at 03:48 AM
No, Peter, your arguments completely ignore economic principles and human nature. And you descend into personal attacks, an indication that you cannot brook disagreement. You falsely accuse me of slavery, showing that character attacks are part of your "logic." And, Steve, I am not a member of the Tea Party or an objectivist. Are you a disciple of Karl Marx? Of Hugo Chavez? Shall we trade insults? I don't use my real name so as to ensure that my comments are not associated with my employer. There is no cowardice involved.
Lisa Hastings December 08, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Unfortunately, many people are selfish and don't care about the suffering that a human being, a child, the environment, or even an animal experienced so that the self-centered consumer could conveniently purchase a cute piece of clothing, a bargain priced package of meat, or other consumer food or the latest household cleaning product or other consumer item. Sadly, most consumers have lost their humanity and their health, and do not care about where their food or clothing comes from. All they care about is if it is cheap and convenient.
Lisa Hastings December 08, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Latin America and China are not doing better. The U.S. used to be the biggest polluter on earth. Now it is China. That is not doing better. Also, both Latin America and China now are bigger consumers of more junk and other wasteful consumer items that are produced in the name of economic progress. Slavery resulted in economic progress in North and Latin America, as well as Africa. Economic progress without consideration of human and environmental concerns is no progress at all. And give us your real name Ivan G.
Ivan G December 08, 2012 at 04:28 AM
On the other hand, many people who do care about others recognize that feel-good solutions will result in negative consequences for those whom they would like to help.
Lisa Hastings December 08, 2012 at 04:36 AM
Except for the riff raff gang bangers, Altadena is a nice little community. Empty store fronts are okay. Nobody really needs businesses to stay open 24/7 in Altadena. If you want 24/7, move to Las Vegas, or Manhattan. There are pharmacies less than 3 miles away that carry what you need at a price you can afford if you don't like Webster's. It is 2012 and many of us do not want or need lots of new businesses to come to town, especially big corporate giants that rely upon the suffering of a human being, a child, or an animal so that you can have your cheap and convenient consumer items at your doorstep 24/7. Sadly, all you write about in regard to Walmart, is your convenience.
robert December 08, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Exactly. That ridiculous union thing last century, fighting for an 8 hour day and other nonsensical items like a meal period or restroom break really messed this country up. No more feel-good solutions!
SteveB December 08, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Hmmm..... your logic re aliases implies that your so called "Tea Party/Ayn Ran disciples/Defenders of every inequality" are .... indeed right minded.
Ivan G December 08, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Did you follow the recent dockworkers' strike, including what the clerks were demanding and the cost of the strike?
Reiu K December 08, 2012 at 05:01 PM
By Shan Li December 8, 2012, 6:00 a.m. After the Bangladesh factory fire that killed more than 100 workers in November, retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fired a supplier making clothes at the facility. Now that supplier has come forward to say it wasn't aware its clothes were stitched there, reports say. Success Apparel said in a statement to Bloomberg that it placed an order with Simco, a Wal-Mart-approved supplier, to fulfill orders. Simco then doled out about 7% of the order to Tuba Group, owner of the now infamous Tazreen Design factory in Bangladesh, according to Success. “This factory is not on our matrix and we have never done business with them,” Success said in the statement to Bloomberg. “We have been a trusted supplier to Walmart for over two decades, never had any violations and complied with the highest ethical and safety standards that our company sets forth.” A workers' rights group found documents in the remains of the fire that reportedly pointed to at least five suppliers making clothes for Wal-Mart at the factory this year. Wal-Mart was not the only retailer connected to the factory. After the fire, Sears said a supplier was using the facility to make apparel without informing the company.
Reiu K December 08, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Industry experts say the tragedy highlights the complexity of the global supply chain, where retailers use vast networks of vendors and manufacturers to churn out their products. Analysts say it can be extremely difficult to keep tabs on every part of the process. Protests have erupted in Bangladesh as textile workers rally. Police have arrested three factory supervisors who are suspected of locking in workers after survivors told authorities that exit doors would not open when they tried to flee, the Associated Press reported. Copy and paste from Los Angeles Times without permission.
Ivan G December 08, 2012 at 05:02 PM
The tyrrany of the Left rears its head once again. Anyone who disagrees with them must be attacked. Maybe you should frequent only sites that demand that all views expressed be politically correct.
Peter Dreier December 08, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Here's the headline from Wednesday's New York Times: "Documents Indicate Walmart Blocked Safety Push in Bangladesh." Here's the story: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/world/asia/3-walmart-suppliers-made-goods-in-bangladeshi-factory-where-112-died-in-fire.html. Walmart knew about the dangerous factory conditions. Its executives went to a meeting to discuss the conditions. Walmart decided AGAINST making improvements because they did not want to spend the money. This is criminal negligence, not a result of the so-called "complexity of the global supply chain," as Reiu says. Walmart has blood on its hands. By the way, most of the pro-Walmart apologists on this blog seem to have forgotten their last names!!! They are cowards and it now appears they are shills for Walmart.
SteveB December 08, 2012 at 05:20 PM
"tyranny of the Left" isn't any better, Ivan.
Ivan G December 08, 2012 at 07:45 PM
If Walmart in fact canceled its suppliers' authorization to use the factory months before the fire, as Walmart claims, then it is hardly surprising that Walmart would not spend money to improve the factory. That would be the responsibility of those companies that approved the continued use of the factory.
Ivan G December 08, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Peter, keep up with the personal attacks and name calling. Your character shines through. You have to learn to tolerate disagreement. Not every intelligent person in the world sees things your way.
Lisa Hastings December 08, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Yeah well Ivan G, you need to publish your full name. Until then, I think the discussion with you is over.
robert December 08, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Child Labor laws too! And those ridiculous government agencies, like OSHA, with their silly laws that bleed corporations of profit and waste taxpayer dollars with their expensive government employees and practices. What happened to the good old days when you work, or else? I want a job in an Asbestos mine! Stupid feel-good solutions!
SteveB December 08, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Peter, if your goal is to close the minds of those who do not think like you, you are doing a good job.
Ivan G December 08, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Oh, no, no, no! How will I survive without your drivel?
Revvell December 08, 2012 at 09:31 PM
You talkin' 'bout me again, Stevie? See ya at the Homestead.
Ivan G December 08, 2012 at 09:44 PM
This incident provides an opportunity for Walmart's competitors. They could adopt strict policies regarding their contract labor, and have an independent inspection agency verify adherence. This is what Apple is doing because of all the negative publicity about Foxconn, which manufactures the iPhone. Walmart competitors who adopt "fair trade" policies could advertise that their garments are made only in approved, inspected factories. That would attract customers and help them compete with Walmart. I think that most people would be willing to pay a few cents more (which is probably all it would cost for casual clothing items) if they could be assured that the money goes to the workers.
Lori A. Webster December 10, 2012 at 05:19 PM
From Seth Godin this morning: "Agency is the ability to make a decision, and to be responsible for the decision you make. Since there have been armies, society has made an exception for soldiers. A soldier following orders is not a murderer, as he doesn't have agency--society doesn't generally want its soldiers questioning orders from our generals. But the industrial age has taken this absolution to ever-higher heights. Every worker in every job is given a pass, because he's just doing his job. The cigarette marketer or the foreman in the low-wage sweatshop... they're just doing their jobs. This free pass is something that makes the industrial economy so attractive to many people. They've been raised to want someone else to be responsible for the what and the how, and they'd just like a job, thanks very much. As the industrial company sputters and fades, there's a fork in the road. In one direction lies the opportunity to regain agency, to take responsibility for ever more of our actions and their effects. In the other direction is the race to the bottom, and the dehumanizing process of more compliance, a cog in an uncaring system." I've chosen which road to travel - have you?
Martha Strain December 11, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I dont blame the american companies I blame the greedy people of their country trying to make a dollar out of the blood of their own people and no regulation on their country like india and bangladesh to have people lock up on their building for fear of someone stealing from them. Blame their government for their deaths their lack of employees protection.

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