This week is Walmart’s 50th birthday. While the champagne may be flowing at Walmart HQ, for the rest of us, Walmart’s anniversary is hardly cause for celebration. There’s a real cost to those “low prices” Walmart promises — and our communities are paying the price.
Walmart lives and dies by its public image. So, to commemorate its 50th birthday, SomOfUs.com created an infographic for you to share with your friends, to help spread the word that Walmart’s business model is bad news for our communities and our world.
After losing her job in advertising when her small-business employer folded during the recession, Marie Kanzer-Born, 54, found herself turning in desperation a year ago to a night shift job stocking shelves at a suburban Chicago Walmart. But she wasn’t happy with what she calls “the weird culture of fear” that its hovering, hectoring supervisors created, the inadequate staffing that forced everyone to work faster and at risk of injury, the erratic scheduling, the refusal to pay for overtime work, and the retaliation aganst anyone who was not subservient—often through cuts in hours of work.
Today, Kanzer-Born is far from home, joining an anticipated 10,000 protesters in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles, many of whom will be telling Walmart that they don’t want its stores in L.A. Kanzer-Born has her own message from “associates” like her to the corporat execs in Bentonville, Arkansas: “They need to listen to us. We know what’s going on at the stores. And second, we would like to be treated with more respect.”
You could call it wishing Walmart an unhappy birthday. Next week Walmart is officially celebrating its 50th anniversary. As a counterpoint, Saturday’s demonstrations in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and other cities are calling attention to the flawed record of the world’s largest retailer—labor rights abuses in stores, suppliers, warehouses and all along the company’s vast logistical network, devastation of small businesses and communities, environmental degradation (despite many “green” initiatives that cut Walmart costs), and the political and economic mis-use of its vast power.
Though many groups are involved, two projects supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union have taken the lead. One is Making Change At Walmart, a public education campaign. The other is Organization United for Respect, or OUR Walmart, an association of associates, which is not a union but a looser, member-run group that is strongly dependent on Internet communication but also sponsors meetings and protests in real time and places, including the workplace.