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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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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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