By Doug Porter
It’s the last week in November and Americans are supposed to be in a frenzied holiday mode. It’s one of the rare times when Hanukkah and Thanksgiving converge. There are even recipes in People magazine for Thanksgivukkah.
It’s one of those years when FDR’s decision to make turkey day the fourth Thursday in November, provides a smaller than usual window of opportunity for shopping for the December holidays.
Do yourselves and the country’s working poor a favor. Stay home. If the truth were to be told, the actual deals offered on Black Friday, and now, Depressingly Grey Thursday, are becoming increasingly limited in scope and quantity. It’s also a rotten deal for employees who are called in on a holiday with the promise of a plate full of “fixin’s” eaten while standing up just before the hordes rush the doors.
Republicans, by the way, hated FDR’s fourth Thursday idea. Former GOP Presidential candidate Alf Landon said FDR’s move was “…another illustration of the confusion which [Roosevelt’s] impulsiveness has caused so frequently during his administration. If the change has any merit at all, more time should have been taken working it out… instead of springing it upon an unprepared country with the omnipotence of a Hitler.”
Our nation’s retailers are standing by, waiting for baited breath, for the buying frenzy that’s come to be known as Black Friday. Some companies have decided not wait. Walmart, Kohl’s, Target, Toys R Us, Macy’s and J.C. Penny have all decided to open up on Thursday.
More than 30,000 people signed a Change.org petition last year asking Walmart not to open its doors arguing that the retailer “can afford to give its employees this holiday to spend with their families.” It didn’t work. This year they’re opening two hours earlier.
Just like last year, Walmart associates and supporters across the country are planning on protesting at a number of stores on Black Friday. They say 1,500 locations will see some kind of activity this time around. At the heart of those campaigns are supporters’ concerns over 825,000 Walmart workers who are paid less than $25,000 a year, alleged illegal retaliation against workers and improved labor standards.
From USA Today:
One Walmart employee from a store in Minnesota said donation bins are not uncommon. She has seen the bins at her store each year around the first week of November.
“It feels kind of insulting, knowing that Wal-Mart can afford to give to their employees. It makes me feel sad that my fellow employees and me can’t even make ends meet,” said Cantare Davunt, 29.
Of course, the scandal here is that it’s taxpayer dollars enabling the mega-retailer to pay those low wages. A Congressional study released earlier this year concluded that a single Walmart location in Wisconsin was costing taxpayers at least $904,542 per year in food stamps and other government aid programs to fulfill the basic needs of their employees.
NLRB Investigation Alleges Violations
The General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board announced findings last week from its investigation into Walmart’s response to last year’s protests.
According to the NLRB:
The Office of the General Counsel found merit to alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act against Walmart, such as the following:
- During two national television news broadcasts and in statements to employees at Walmart stores in California and Texas, Walmart unlawfully threatened employees with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests on November 22, 2012.
- Walmart stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests.
- Walmart stores in California, Florida, Missouri and Texas unlawfully threatened, surveilled, disciplined, and/or terminated employees in anticipation of or in response to employees’ other protected concerted activities.
What’s up at Walmart for 2013? More of the same.
From The Nation:
As planned Black Friday strikes draw increasing media attention, Walmart continues to publicly dismiss the actions as stunts and the workers involved as an unrepresentative fringe. But workers charge that behind closed doors, the company is waging a stepped-up campaign to to intimidate them out of striking. That includes both alleged illegal threats and punishments, and likely legal mandatory meetings designed to discourage workers from joining the Black Friday rebellion.
Today, OUR Walmart filed the latest of dozens of National Labor Relations Board charges against Walmart. The charge, announced this evening, alleges that Walmart’s national headquarters has “told store-level management to threaten workers with termination, discipline, and/or a lawsuit if they strike or engage in other concerted job actions on Black Friday” and that managers in cities including San Leandro, California, Fairfield, Connecticut, and Dallas have done exactly that. It also alleges that Walmart Vice President of Communications David Tovar “threatened employees” with his statements. OUR Walmart says it is seeking “immediate intervention” to remedy the alleged crimes. In an e-mailed statement, American Rights at Work Research Director Erin Johansson said, “Walmart appears to be issuing serious threats to employees to stop them from exercising their rights under law.”
Walmart has filed its own set of charges with the NLRB. Last Friday they filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) asking the National Labor Relations Board to halt ‘unlawful attempts to disrupt its business.’
At issue is whether or not OUR Walmart and other similar groups are seeking union representation. Should an administrative judge find favorably for the company, an emergency injunction could be issued barring activist groups from picketing the mega retailer.
The National Labor Relations Act prohibits union sponsored picketing for more than 30 days without the filing of a representation petition. Since these groups holding demonstrations outside Walmart stores are only indirectly affiliated with unions and have not included demands for union representation in their protests, they believe their activities are protected.
Another Reason to Say No To Walmart
Over the past year there have been two tragic events in Bangladesh in garment factories. More than 1200 workers died in the Tazreen factory fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse; 1800 more were injured. Some are still in hospitals.
The New York Times has a story up today about efforts by the International Labor Organization, labor groups and a few socially conscious retailers to assist those workers and their families.
Alas, Walmart isn’t one of those companies:
…production documents recovered after the Tazreen fire indicate that two months before that fire erupted, 55 percent of the factory’s production was being made for Walmart contractors. Walmart has repeatedly been asked to contribute to the anticipated $6 million compensation program for Tazreen survivors and families.
“Walmart is the one company that is showing an astonishing lack of responsibility, considering that so much of their product was being made at the Tazreen factory,” said Samantha Maher, a campaign coordinator for the British arm of the Clean Clothes Campaign, a European anti-sweatshop group.
Walmart has also been asked to contribute to the planned Rana Plaza fund because production documents were found in the building rubble indicating that a Canadian contractor was producing jeans for Walmart in 2012 at the Ether Tex factory inside the building. Walmart said that unauthorized contractors were producing garments without the company’s knowledge.
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
As Mark Sumner points out:
Walmart’s unending quest to inflate its profit by any means is such that it scrambles to find elaborate schemes to deny the wages promised to workers who sacrifice their holidays to the corporate coffers.
The most shameful thing out of all these numbers may be this: Walmart could quite easily afford to pay its workers a living wage. It could do so without threatening its ability to operate. It could do so without slowing its relentless expansion. It could do so without residing its prices one dime. Walmart has ample ability to pay its workers more, because it’s not just profitable, it’s massively profitable.
If Walmart were to pay all of its employees a living wage—not a poverty rate, but something more like the $45k average that Costco workers earn—if it did that, Walmart’s corporate profits would have declined last year from $17 billion, to a mere $12.5 billion.
Walmart Black Friday Protests in San Diego
November 29, 2013• 8:00 AM
Walmart 5938• 575 Saturn Blvd, SAN DIEGO, CA 9215
November 29, 2013• 10:00 AM
Walmart 2291• 75 N Broadway, CHULA VISTA, CA 91910
For more information, go here.
Black Friday in Wingnuttia
Remember that caravan of truckers that was going to block the nation’s capital’s freeways until Obama resigned? That didn’t work out so well. Neither did the armed march by the “open carry” gun advocates.
The President is still in office, spinning out things like a possible breakthrough in negotiations with Iran to keep the public’s mind off the failure of Obamacare according to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
That means the wingnuts will just have to try harder, right?
From The Daily Beast:
President Obama has until Black Friday to resign or else a group of conservative activists will stage “the second American revolution.” According to Larry Klayman, the founder of the activist group Freedom Watch, who is suing the Obama administration for the NSA’s surveillance program and emceed a protest in front of the White House Tuesday, the nonviolent revolution will take place in Philadelphia over the next few weeks and will involve electing a “government in waiting,” including a new president to replace Obama. “In the end [Obama] will feel the force of the American people, just like King George did,” Klayman told the approximately 100 people who attended Tuesday’s rally. Former Republican Rep. Bob Barr, who lead the successful effort to impeach Bill Clinton in the ‘90s, was there too. “We have a scoundrel living in that building,” he told the crowd, pointing to the White House. “And need to do something about it.”
The Mayoral Race Gets Some National Attention
Over at Daily Kos, the place where the bluest of the blue Dems hang out, the race for Mayor in our town got front page treatment on Sunday.
From an article by Ian Reifowitz:
We progressives have talked a lot about how to move our party to the left, about supporting—in the words of the late, great Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota (and later repeated by Gov. Howard Dean)—the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” a wing now represented best by folks like Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown at the national level.
In San Diego, the voters in an open primary chose the liberal over the centrist Democrat. This is what we progressives have been trying to get voters to do. But the key now is to make sure that liberal David Alvarez doesn’t end up as our side’s Christine O’Donnell/Richard Mourdock/Sharron Angle (man, there are a lot of them)—nominees who were so far to one end of the political spectrum that they lost winnable races.
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), that those tea party-backed candidates were not only incredibly ideologically extreme but also, well, just nuts. Alvarez is neither of those things. He is a strong liberal, but we have to keep in mind that—as Eric Alterman documented—strong liberal views actually are the American mainstream.
Primaries are really where we progressives can make our mark, where we can fight for the candidate who best represents our values. But when our guy wins the primary, as happened in San Diego, we’ve got to do everything (DONATE HERE) we can to make sure he wins the general election, otherwise progressive candidates will be dismissed with the tag thrown at David Alvarez, that they are “too liberal.”
Tweet of the Day: (Another Lie About Barrio Logan)
Barrio Logan signature gatherer outside Vons in Normal Heights blatantly lying. Told me that building of luxury condos will start in 4 days
— Benjamin Katz (@MeanestBossEver) November 24, 2013
Katz said later on twitter that the individual backed off a bit from this claim under questioning to a slightly less outrageous lie.
Video on Inequality in the US – How Bad it Really is: (And Why We Need to Change It)
h/t Annie Lane
Check Out the SDFree Press Calendar
Thanks to the efforts of Brent Beltran, the San Diego Free Press now has an on-line calendar of events. You can see events in the arts, performances and political gatherings of every persuasion by clicking on the ‘Calendar’ Tab at the top of the page. To get your event listed, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
On This Day: 1947 – Movie studio executives meeting in New York agreed to blacklist the “Hollywood 10,” who were cited a day earlier and jailed for contempt of Congress when they failed to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. 1984 – Several British and American stars got together as Band-Aid, and recorded “Do They Know It’s Christmas”. The project was planned by Bob Geldof. The proceeds of the record went to Ethiopian famine relief. 1986 – President Reagan and Attorney Gen. Edwin Meese revealed that profits from secret arms sales to Iran had been diverted to rebels in Nicaragua. National Security Advisor John Poindexter resigned and Oliver North was fired.
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