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"The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself."

- Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, 1879

On November 6, an electoral coalition made up mostly of working class Americans prevented the election victory of a reactionary party and slate of candidates whose policies would have wreaked untold misery on working people, including the poor, and wrecked the macro-economy as well. But the working class's real political move this November has occurred not in voting booths but in Walmart parking lots across the country, where Walmart workers protested their wages and working conditions, even as, halfway around the world in Bangladesh, more than 100 textile workers making clothing for Walmart were killed by a fire caused by unsafe working conditions.

We have global capitalism, but have we a global working class or not?

The ongoing grassroots labor activism at Walmart in the U.S. reminds us that while the election is over the class struggle is not, and that class politics moves now from the voting booth to the workplace and the streets. For any Progressive whose political imagination extends beyond the narrow ideological confines of today's two-party discourse, that is good news indeed. For those of us who consider ourselves socialists or radicals, it is essential, because those confines have rendered electoral politics basically irrelevant to advancing working class interests, as opposed merely to defending them.

Part I: What's Going On?

Starting in June, Walmart workers have unleashed an unprecedented wave of labor unrest that has shaken the retail behemoth and its global supply chain. The ongoing protests reached one peak on so-called "Black Friday," when 1,000 strikes and protests were held across the country and at least 500 Walmart workers walked off their jobs,  making it the largest U.S. strike in the history of Walmart.

The Black Friday walkout was organized by the "Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart" (OUR Walmart), a year-old group of Walmart employees sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW). OUR Walmart and its allies the Warehouse Workers United Union and the National Guestworker Alliance are pushing for an end to unsafe working conditions, a living wage, benefits, and an end to corporate retaliation against employees for organizing activity.

Notice what is missing: There is no demand, or even request, for the formation of a union. Whatever the current Walmart activism is, it is not a union organizing drive, at least not formally and not today. The reason for that lies in the fact that an organizing drive at Walmart at the present time would lose spectacularly, setting back labor organizing in the retail branch of the service sector of the economy by a generation.

In any union drive, there are three basic elements: the workers, the company and the law, and in the case of Walmart all three elements work against labor, at least for now: If asked today Walmart employees would vote heavily against a union; Walmart corporate is ideologically anti-union, once actually closing a store (in Quebec) after its workers voted in a union; and the law is so heavily tilted in favor of employers and against unions that formal organizing drives are virtually a thing of the past.

So OUR Walmart instead emphasizes respect for employees and the problem of wealth inequality within the Walmart company. A low-level Walmart employee averages $8 an hour and won't get a pay raise until after 6 years of committed employment. And even then, the raise only brings the worker’s pay to $10.60 an hour or $22,048 a year, still below the national poverty line for a family of four in 2012. Low wages force many Walmart employees to rely on food stamps and other government assistance to provide for their families.

Of course, this being capitalism, this poverty is by no means shared equally across the company. In 2011 Walmart’s net income was $15.7 billion, and the net worth of the Walton family totaled $89.5 billion in 2010, as much as the bottom 41.5 percent of U.S. families combined.

Part II: What Does It Mean?

"This struggle about the legal restriction of the hours of labor raged the more fiercely since, apart from frightened avarice, it told indeed upon the great contest between the blind rule of the supply and demand laws which form the political economy of the middle class, and social production controlled by social foresight, which forms the political economy of the working class. Hence the Ten Hours’ Bill was not only a great practical success; it was the victory of a principle; it was the first time that in broad daylight the political economy of the middle class succumbed to the political economy of the working class."

- Karl Marx, 1864

The Walmart activism, limited as it is both in word and deed, is remarkable because of the significant role--both practical and symbolic--that Walmart plays in the political economy of the 21st century U.S. Walmart's business model, based as it is on a philosophy of intrusively authoritarian management, payment of the lowest wages possible, and intransigent hostility to unions, is the epitome of neo-liberal business theory. Based in right-to-work Arkansas, Walmart has stayed almost entirely union-free for most of its existence.

The point is that Walmart, with its global supply chain and network of stores, is today's equivalent of U.S. Steel or General Motors--what we used to call the "commanding heights" of the capitalist system of production. Scaling those heights is the most difficult and most crucial task, for just as the successful organizing drives at GM and USS helped lead to waves of organizing of heavy industry, so too could victory at Walmart open up the service sector to unions.

The company has never before dealt with coordinated labor protest on this scale. Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart, another organization backed by the UFCW which works closely with OUR Walmart, explains the significance.

“In the past, Wal-Mart would fire people, would threaten people … and that would be enough to stop people in their tracks. The difference now is workers are using Wal-Mart’s own tactics to challenge the company and not backing down. Really, for the first time in Wal-Mart’s history, the tools that are used to keep people silent and under control are now being used against them. That’s significant.”

"Here is what’s so significant about this: this strike was about sending a message to Walmart that these workers won’t be silenced. This wasn't a strike to try to cripple Walmart’s operation. This wasn't a strike to impact their Black Friday sales. This was an unfair labor practices strike to send a message to Walmart that your retaliation is going to get a response like this: it is going to get publicized, and a tool they've been using is going to be used against them."

Although, as noted above, OUR Walmart isn’t pushing for union representation, Schlademan explained why OUR Walmart. “All the other things that are the heart and soul of the labor movement and of workers’ organizing are there, which is collective action, workers pulling their resources together so they have a bigger voice, and utilizing the public to educate and build power to change the company.”

Schlademan said that OUR Walmart is in it for the long haul.

“It’s gotta start somewhere. … Workers are having enough. You look at the sit-down strike, you look at the civil-rights movement, you look at the women’s rights movement, you look at anything, you look at Occupy, right? It started off with a few people sleeping in a park, and it grew,” Schlademan said. “So this is a process—people are building a movement inside of Wal-Mart, and they’re building a movement outside of Wal-Mart. What was in October was the beginning. What’s gonna happen on Black Friday will be a continuation of that ... and this will just continue to build.”  
The number of union-related work stoppages involving more than 1,000 workers, which reached an all-time low of just five in 2009, rose to 13 this year as of October. And unions aren't done yet.

Nurses are striking this week at hospitals operated by Sutter Health in California; workers voted against concessions at Hostess Brands Inc., forcing the company's hand; pilots at American Airlines are wreaking havoc on the airline's schedule as it tries to cut pension and other benefits.

Julius Getman, a labor expert at the University of Texas, points out that labor activism tends to snowball.

"There's a lot of agitating going on, people are unhappy. They feel that they're not being well-treated. There is a swelling of annoyance at the rich. If there really is turmoil at Wal-Mart on Friday, it will set in motion a lot of other protests. There will be a sense of, 'Well, they did it, why shouldn't we?'"

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:00 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Income Inequality Kos, Invisible People, and ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (25+ / 0-)

    "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

    by Le Gauchiste on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:00:05 PM PST

  •  This is a very interesting analysis (12+ / 0-)

    and you ask some excellent questions. The Walmart situation really does have all of the quandaries facing labor in 21st C globalized neoliberal capitalism. The only point of leverage in the situation is that Walmart can't outsource hands on retail work. It has to be performed by workers present in the US. What they have tried to do is to create third world working conditions and have so far been able to get by with it.

    I think that it is impossible to stop the neoliberal tide without an effective union movement. The core problem I see is that the establishment was able to convince a majority of Americans that they had been promoted to the ranks of the middle class and that belonging to unions had thus become declasse for them.

     

    •  I didn't want to get all romantic and (8+ / 0-)

      I ran out of time, but I think your comment points to something additional I had wanted to expand on: that the most likely advances made here will be in the arena of class consciousness rather than organization.

      Union people know that Walmart would smash any organizing drive to bits, but maybe, just maybe, we're beginning to see the tide turn a bit, and the first step is in consciousness - in rejecting the idea that "promotion" to the middle class makes unions declasse.

      And then, for an even bigger maybe, maybe the Dems ride a wave of class consciousness to victory in the 2014 House elections and actually pass labor law reform that would at least bring organizing Walmart into the realm of the possible.

      A unionized Walmart and a unionized retail sector would change everything.

      "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

      by Le Gauchiste on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:18:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't believe (7+ / 0-)

        that the Democratic party is capable of promoting and mobilizing class consciousness. It is an integral part of the neoliberal establishment.

      •  I think this is incredibly important! (5+ / 0-)

        A rise in class consciousness is essential and that can fuel additional fightback by working class people. One of the amazing thing is that those that work at Walmart are the working poor who are incredibly vulnerable normally and are even more vulnerable during an economic crisis where there is high unemployment, where the threat of job loss and easy replacement is no exaggeration. If these people can risk so much, it can also inspire others.

        The power imbalance at this point (which you have described so well in the piece) is so strong and organising in an anti-union environment is extremely difficult. I think you and Richard Lyon raised an incredibly important point in this discussion.

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:44:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Freedom is just another word for nothing left to (5+ / 0-)

          lose.I think the decreasing upward mobility, lack of manufacturing and construction jobs with traditionally higher salaries, combined with the economic downturn and attack on middle class jobs has finally made many folks realize that we can't take past victories for granted and actually have to start taking the risks ourselves if we want to have decent paying jobs.  Think we are slowly getting to the point where we are actually contemplating organizing low paid work --Starbucks, McDonald's, Walmart,etc.  It will have a different trajectory than previous organizing in industrial jobs, but I think we are on our way. And it has nothing to do with voting in people who will make better labor laws.  The organizing comes first, the laws later.

          •  Yes, that is exactly right. (4+ / 0-)

            We organized in the past when the law was all arrayed against us and we can do it again.

            So many forget that the great strike year:1934 preceded the New Deal.

            WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

            by JayRaye on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 06:05:57 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  That is true but it was and is a dialectical (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NY brit expat, BlueDragon, JayRaye

              process. The labor activism of 1934 et seq. created the political pressure for labor law reform finally to pass in 1935 (NLRA) & 1938 (FLSA), but it was after those laws were passed that organized labor actually began to win organizing campaigns consistently. In some case, e.g. Ford Motors, complete unionization was not achieved until WWII, when the feds encouraged/required union labor on govt. contracts, and in others like textiles unionization has not been fully achieved to this day.

              That's particularly unjust when it comes to the textile workers, for their General Strike of 1934, which entailed enormous sacrifices on the part of 400,000 workers, was one of the strikes that helped convince middle of the road Dems in Congress to support the NLRA.

              So, the hoped-for trajectory would be sufficient labor activism, regardless of how "successful" in contract terms, to motivate Dems to pass labor law reform in 2014. (It's certainly never happening under Speaker Boehner.) Then unions use the new laws to actually increase their share of the workforce for the first time since the mid-1950s.

              "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

              by Le Gauchiste on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 06:55:52 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  yes, that is exactly what I was saying (0+ / 0-)

                in my own way.

                However, now we have been brainwashed that we Cannot have labor activism until the laws are more on our side.

                And, meanwhile, union membership continues to decline.

                This is my belief: at this time massive labor action should be primary, begging for changes in the law, should be a very distant 2nd or 3rd.

                WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

                by JayRaye on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:44:55 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  The vast majority of industrial workers (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            George3, JayRaye

            were low paid workers before unions; think of the garment workers, think of the miners, etc. All were unskilled, low paid workers; I agree there will be a different trajectory for many reasons, but low pay is an obvious point of similarity. But, I agree, I think this is the beginning and will give the neoliberals a nice kick in the arse; their whole line is low wages brought about by competition. If low paid workers fight back internationally, it will create a problem.

            "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

            by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 06:26:58 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Class Consciousness yes, eventually, we would hope (4+ / 0-)

        But for now, at a minimum simple Respect.

        An entire section of American workers have been convinced somehow that they are unworthy of simple respect as people and as citizens.

        Over and over, I hear these stories of how Walmart workers are treated with disdain, abused, berated in public, and all this for a wage that is not even a living wage. And that substandard wage is the biggest disrespect of all. Even our dogs can expect to be housed and fed.

        Thus the website:
        http://forrespect.org/

        for respect

        And the slogan:
        Stand Up! Live Better!

        This is a good place for OUR Walmart to start, encouraging Walmart Workers to expect to be treated with dignity and respect. A shocking idea to the Walmart Corp. Who knows where that simple idea might lead to.

        Uppity Workers, Oh MY.

        WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

        by JayRaye on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 05:05:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  When we get the living wage by standing up, we'll (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye, NY brit expat, George3

          get the respect.

          •  I wasn't exactly thinking about (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NY brit expat, George3, Geminijen, ZhenRen

            "getting respect"
            but about "expecting respect"
            we always deserve respect no matter our wage.

            I was thinking more in terms of self-respect as in a person who goes out into the world expecting respectful treatment.

            Sometimes folks have to learn to think of themselves as a person deserving of respect before they can stand-up and fight back. That's why I think the campaign "for respect" is so important.

            WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

            by JayRaye on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 06:18:50 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  agreed, this is essential and the whole line (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JayRaye, George3

              of it is your fault that you are poor, it is your fault that you are unskilled, it is your fault and clearly you are a failure as in our society, successful people are rich, and losers are poor and hence do not deserve respect as human beings because they are losers.

              This line has served those in power very well for far too long! Your point is an excellent one and I think fundamental.

              "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

              by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 06:29:53 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  People who do thse jobs (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JayRaye

                cannot exactly be defined as "unskilled."

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 08:53:32 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  There was a reality show once... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  JayRaye

                  that took CEOs of large corporations and put them in "unskilled" positions in their own companies and they floundered, unable to do the work as well as those who have worked in these positions for years. They were particularly bad at doing these jobs, and were surprised at the level of difficulty of the work.

                  "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                  by ZhenRen on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 09:01:55 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  When we have self-respect, we fight for what is (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JayRaye

              due us and when we fight for our due, it increases our self-respect.  You're right, its not about actually winning the wages, though that does help. Moral victories get pretty thin after awhile.

              •  Agree & Agree. (0+ / 0-)

                Moral victories get very thin after a while and while they may nourish the soul, they do not nourish the body.

                It takes a little bit of self-respect to stand up and fight back, & from there, both self-respect, solidarity, & hopefully, class consciousness grow.

                Time will tell if we are again on that path.

                WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

                by JayRaye on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:04:01 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Having self respect (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JayRaye

              and expecting that one deserves respect, acting as if it is a norm, can get one fired in the hierarchical workplace. It isn't just capitalism and the owner class that disrespects, but archism in general.

              Having been self employed my entire life, until recently, has left me ill equipped to deal with this. It was insufferable in academic environments, but that was only for a few years of my life. Now, with a boss to deal with, I keep coming up against issues that require me to acquiesce to disrespect, or gently assert myself in self-respect and risk homelessness.

              I'm amazed that so many people put up with this. It seems apparent that most people accept their assigned lesser status as if it is the unquestioned norm. I've tried to raise this when I speak with workers and have gotten mixed responses. Even workers treat each other according to the status the ruling class has assigned them, as if these roles are real measures of worth.

              People live their lives as slaves, and are often barely aware of the unfairness and inequality of the relationships with "superiors".

              "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

              by ZhenRen on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 08:43:06 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  yep, I know, I've been a working woman all my life (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ZhenRen

                & much of that as a single mother. I couldn't just throw my job away (usually). But notice I said expect respect, not demand it. A self-respecting worker carries him or her self differently and reacts differently when disrespected than a groveling intimidated worker.

                For example when I was a heavy equipment operator and the boss came over to start his bullshit, we would stop our machines, get down, walk over to where he was yelling, stand there with our arms folded ((symbol of strike) and let him yell. All except for one fellow worker I know of who started a fist fight, but that's a long story. The boss & the Union Brother rolled all the way down the stockpile.

                I recently advised a friend to do the same. When the boss starts yelling, stop working, turn and face him and let him yell, don't sass back, but don't grovel either. When they notice that everyone stops working while they are yelling, they often learn to stop yelling. I'm in Texas now, where disrespect of workers, abuse of workers at work, is the norm, even in higher paying jobs. But, even here some of us stand up to it in our own subtle way.

                This is called a Work to Rule Tactic. And could fill an entire diary.

                WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

                by JayRaye on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:36:54 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Work to Rule (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ZhenRen

                  http://labornotes.org/...

                  Sometimes called Work to Rule Strike, but not a strike in the traditional  sense.

                  For example, the boss is yelling and the workers stop working to pay him close attention, how is that striking? They are showing him the respect they think he deserves (snark).

                  WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

                  by JayRaye on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 10:08:48 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Smiling as I read your approach (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  JayRaye

                  That's great.

                  My partner tells me I have to learn how the workplace hierarchy functions, that it is an unfamiliar relationship for me, as far as the workplace goes. I keep lapsing into acting as if I'm an equal without thinking, and she coaches me, giving me clues about can be said, or not said, and the way things are phrased is important.

                  My relationship with my boss is one on one. There are no coworkers I'm in contact with, and thus I can't allow another worker to take the lead in dealing with the boss. So I'm learning the rules of hierarchical work relationships the hard way. For the most part I've managed to avoid this kind of work relationship my entire life, until now.  

                  In my work, I could easily do my immediate supervisors job, and could do it better than he, but I don't dare make that too obvious. I've noticed one of the silent rules of hierarchy is the boss is right, even when he's wrong. I have to find creative ways to get an idea across, even finding a way for him to think he thought of a solution himself. And I'm amazed how often, by the time a conversation with him ends, that he suggests, in his own words, exactly what I proposed, as if he came up with it. I'm fine with that, as long as it allows work to move forward.

                  Working with a boss is in itself a skill that many take for granted. When one lacks that skill, it can lead to unemployment.

                  While I've always been aware of the inequality, it has mostly come from second hand reports of others. I don't have a lifetime of grappling with this form of relationship, except with the state, of course. I find this whole way of living to be appalling, and unnatural, and unnecessary. There are better ways to organize society.

                  When a person can be replaced relatively easily, one has little power. You can be more or less required to participate in social events, to hold one's tongue while being lectured about politics, endure sexism, racism, tyranny of the management class, with few options to counter any of this, since unemployment in a bad economy is even worse. The inequality is stifling, and yet is accepted as the norm in hierarchical societies.

                  "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                  by ZhenRen on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 10:43:13 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  yep it sucks bigtime (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ZhenRen

                    sometimes silence and a steady gaze right between the eyes helps.

                    but in the end, without a union, we cope the best we can.

                    Solidarity,
                    JayRaye

                    WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

                    by JayRaye on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 11:21:22 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Sucks is the word for it! (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      JayRaye

                      I wake up in the morning, every morning, wondering how I can become self employed again. It isn't just the difference in income. As long as I have a roof over my head in a decent environment, with enough food to eat, I'm very adaptable to less income. It is the lack of autonomy, of equality as a person. I'm now a slave. Not just a wage slave, but for a certain, contracted amount of time, I am under corporate authority. My life is not my own, and the punishment for lack of obedience is homelessness.

                      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                      by ZhenRen on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 11:39:55 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

  •  Anti-capitalist meetup schedule (5+ / 0-)

    We have a great series coming up for this month:

    next week: JayRaye on the fires in WalMart owned garment factories in Bangladesh and the triangle shirt-waist factory fire

    16th: UnaSpenser and NY brit expat on some inconsistencies between Capitalism and Justice

    23rd: Justina on Nicaragua
    30th: Annieli

    January:

    6th: Geminijen (?) education part II
    13th:
    20th:
    27th:

    Thanks to those that volunteered for this month. We need more volunteers to keep the series going. If you can volunteer, please write to ny brit expat on dkos (who is coordinating the schedule) or write to our group email: dkanticapitalistgroup@gmail.com or leave a reply to this comment!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:23:01 PM PST

    •  change of schedule (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye

      Richard Lyon will be writing on the 16th of December! UnaSpenser and NY brit expat will publish their piece on the 13th of January!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 04:28:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Diary cross-posted at (4+ / 0-)

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:24:29 PM PST

  •  Was there turmoil? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Le Gauchiste, NY brit expat, JayRaye

    I didn't see any turmoil that wasn't the usual Black Friday stuff. In fact, the whole story seems to be that the Walmart workers don't WANT to create turmoil, their goals are elsewhere.

    So isn't Julius Getman's statement irrelevant?

    •  Good point. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, JayRaye, MNPundit

      I guess the question is what Getman meant by "turmoil," and I'm willing to assume that he meant the term broadly, to include the kind of scenes that did occur at Walmart stores.

      The thing is, this will be a long process - it would be shockingly fast if a Walmart union was able to sign a collectively bargained contract with Walmart within 10 years.

      "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

      by Le Gauchiste on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:41:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do you think that should even be a goal? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JayRaye

        I mean, a "WalMart union." For good or ill (at least 75% ill) unions as we have known them are fading. Is a new union really the right step forward? Or does the very concept need to be updated for the modern era? Everything I've read about the current action indicates it's being done by people who are interested in social justice but don't seem particularly interested in unions, at least as a label.

        I hope to watch developments closely because I wonder if non-union collective action of exactly this type is the wave of the future while traditional unions are the past.

        •  Doesn't have to be either/or can be (0+ / 0-)

          both/and.

          Having sat at the bargaining table, I can say with certainty, that nothing else is quite the equal to that relationship. We are equals at the bargaining table. And that is true reason why the bosses hate Unions so much.

          But in the face of the difficulties in Unionization, these new creative organizing tactics are inspiring.

          The only complaint that I have with OUR Walmart is that they continue to use the term "associate."

          But, of course, it is not for me to tell them how to define themselves.

          WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

          by JayRaye on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:56:19 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I think from Walmart's point of view, (4+ / 0-)

      Yes! there was turmoil.

      11 protesters at a Walmart in San Antonio brot out 5 squad cars, 4 hung around in the parking lot for 2 hours, and circled us continuously after that as did the Walmart managers. A regional manager showed up.

      Meanwhile we kept right on peacefully protesting.

      But for them and for the police driving round and round, yes! They seemed to be in some turmoil.

      Walmart has been put on notice.
      No more business as usual where they have total control the message and have everything their own way all the time everywhere they put their mighty foot down.

      For them, that might be the very definition of turmoil.

      WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

      by JayRaye on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 05:54:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hmm, WalMart (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JayRaye

        ....always tries to respond with overwhelming force when they heard whispers of collective action, right? I suppose the most important thing is to what extent WalMart employees who did not strike noticed, and to what extent customers noticed.

        Btw, I've been trying to find out: Did WalMart fire anyone over the November demonstrations?

        •  Walmart employees who struck on (0+ / 0-)

          Black Friday did so as part of ULP actions, & do have some protection, esp with organization behind them (whether that organization is a union or not).

          Don't know if anyone was fired. I'm signed up several places for updates, & haven't yet heard of any firings. Walmart is under legal scrutiny at this time for retaliatory practice (these are illegal), may be watching its p & qs, at least for now.

          Unfair Labor Practices Strike:
          http://labornotes.org/...

          WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

          by JayRaye on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 08:55:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  This is an excellent piece of work le gauchiste! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, Geminijen

    Excellent analysis raising essential questions! What was also very interesting to me was the international solidarity shown by Walmart workers working in production factories overseas with the American Walmart workers. This very important international solidarity must be shared back and given the fires in textile factories that are part of the Walmart chain leading to so many deaths and the lack of fire safety and decent conditions of work could form the basis of a coherent rise of class conscious on an international level.

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:33:35 PM PST

    •  Developing a truly (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, JayRaye, UnaSpenser

      international labor movement is the only really effective way that I can see to deal with globalization. It's got to be a lot more than the song.

    •  from Argentina: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye

      http://www.walmartworkersalliance.org/...

      In Bangladesh following the fire:

      http://peoplesworld.org/...

      South Korea:
      http://www.warehouseworkersunited.org/...

      These are just a few examples!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 04:01:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thx, expat (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat

        In this diary I posted videos of support for #Walmarch from Chile, South Korea, and Bangladesh.

        Scroll down:
        http://www.dailykos.com/...

        WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

        by JayRaye on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 05:39:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I had a picture from Bangladesh and now (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye

          I couldn't find it (of course) ... this is incredibly important, we are looking at super-exploited workers of various types literally working for the same firm at different levels of production and exchange. For all these workers (unskilled, overworked, grossly underpaid) daring to show solidarity is incredible, it is what has been desperately needed. Now, if the long process of building internationally and domestically can be done this would be a new re-start for labour. It will take a long time, but these steps are so important.  Thanks for the link to your piece JayRaye, so sorry that I missed it. Did you repost on anti-capitalist chat? People that do read that will be interested; there is something about international solidarity that moves me deeply!

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 06:01:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Glad to hear about the international solidarity. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, JayRaye

      Not surprised that it occurred in the production end of the business for many reasons, including the fire, the relation of the workers to the means of production in the secondary sector,etc.

      To be honest, I'm currently in Mexico where they built a great big Walmart right next to a MEGA store (Mexican equivalent) = obviously trying to drive MEGA out of business.  Have been talking up the Black Friday strike. Fact is, the Mexicans here still adore Walmart -- its prices are slightly higher than MEGA and goods are slightly better than MEGA (so I've been told - I shop at MEGA and haven't been in Walmart for obvious reasons.)  When I ask workers about wages, they seem to think they are about the same in both stores  (am trying to do a survey on this). When I talked to the Mexican family I am staying with about supporting Mexican businesses they agree, but as the madre de casa says "the products at Walmart are so good."

      Am not saying all this to be negative, just reporting the current situation in another area. Am sure there are still many in the States who still feel this way too.

  •  this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, JayRaye

    Is a great analysis.

    •  agreed, wish that more people were here (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye, Geminijen, UnaSpenser

      to read it and comment on it! When I read it, I was simply incredibly impressed with the analysis.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 04:23:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  But can they win? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Le Gauchiste, NY brit expat, JayRaye

    I'm not sure what the final long-term goal here is for the Wal-Mart Employees. Also, because I'm unfamiliar with labor law, why is the formation of a union so against the workers? What changes in labor law have allowed them to side with employers?

    •  I'm not sure they are either. (4+ / 0-)

      Seriously, I think that while the UFCW folks are hoping eventually to get millions of dues-paying members who work at Walmart under union contracts, they also know that's years away. And I think that some of the grassroots Walmart employees don't know where they're headed either, and that's okay since they're clearly on the right path.

      As for labor law, I'm afraid I'm not feeling well enough this evening to go into it in detail, because there is literally so much to discuss. In fact, it would make for an excellent diary topic!

      Just off the top of my head, some of the big problems are as follows:

      the election procedures are slow and cumbersome;

      employers are allowed to require employees to attend "captive audience" anti-union meetings that may go on for hours and include all sorts of misinformation, but union reps are not allowed to attend nor are unions given equal time;

      although the law forbids retaliation against pro-labor employees, employers do it all the time because it takes literally years for the employee who suffered retaliation to get justice, and then the company pays only back wages; etc. ad nauseam.

      "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

      by Le Gauchiste on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 04:41:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  agreed this would be an excellent topic (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JayRaye, trueblueliberal

        for a piece ... perhaps we can persuade you to write it in the coming year?

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 04:47:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  These viral ULP strikes are a good tactic. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Le Gauchiste, NY brit expat, a2nite

        Keeps Walmart off base.

        In the old days workers could strike for union recognition. Not today. But ULP strikes are perfectly legal if done right. With a Union support behind them they may not have to wait for years to get results:

        http://labornotes.org/....

        Now when workers get fed up enuf, we could once again see massive civil disobedience such as the great sit-down wave of the 30s. The Pittston strike included civil disobedience, sitting in road in violation if injunctions, seizing and holding the plant. They also had Camp Solidarity with visitors (including me) from all across the country and all over the world. That was only 23 years ago. But Trumka seems to have forgotten that he was ever President of such a fighting union.

        Perhaps we are seeing a little bit of that fighting spirit revived. The fight itself builds class consciousness.

        I doubt that Walmart will give up it's system of super-exploitation without a major fight.

        WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

        by JayRaye on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 05:32:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for a great diary and bringing us back to (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, NY brit expat, a2nite, UnaSpenser

    class basics.  Personally, I think we are on a very long and slow road back to a more aware working class-  out of necessity. Think the more we focus directly on working class organization at the workplace and the less we focus on the democratic party, even to get better labor laws, the quicker the movement will grow.  

    •  Amen! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat

      April 2, 1911
      Rose Schneiderman:

      I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. And the only way is through a strong working-class movement.

      WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Nov: Lives lost trying to earn a living.

      by JayRaye on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 06:28:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  agreed completely as you know ... :) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 06:30:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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