Walmart workers begin first-ever prolonged strike today

Oh Walmart. Not having such a good day, are you? First, you find yourself having to plead guilty to charges of dumping tons of hazardous materials in California and having to cough up $81 million dollars to rectify that. Then, it turns out that your workers in Massachusetts, Florida and California are organizing a major strike because you pay them like crap and treat them worse. The discount retailer, which boasts the largest amount of minimum wage workers in the country, has a seriously bad history of mistreating its workers and firing those who attempt to unionize.

While Walmart workers have staged several walkouts and strikes– most notably this past November on Black Friday– this will be their first prolonged strike. They plan to continue it at least until the June 7th shareholders meeting in Bentonville Arkansas.

The workers, in collaboration with the union backed labor group OUR Walmart, also plan to set up a cross-country caravan called the “Ride For Respect” where they will visit stores across the nation educate communities and workers about the issues with Walmart.

While it’s easy for me to say “HEY, how about no one shop at or work at a Walmart until they stop all this evil crap”– I realize that I live in a city where I have multiple options available to me. I don’t think I’ve ever even been inside of a Walmart, so it’s not a big deal for me to boycott them.

However, in some rural areas, Walmart is often the largest employer and the easiest store to get to. The big-box store has forced smaller stores– who were unable to compete with the low everyday prices Walmart was able to achieve by screwing over workers and buying crap from sweatshops– right out of business.

This is just another example of how the “invisible hand of the free market” just ends up touching us all in a bad place. The fact is, if you are opposed to people getting help from the government, you should be opposed to the government allowing these big businesses to pay people less than a living wage. If someone works a full-time job in this country, they should be able to support themselves. They should be able to afford the basic necessities, like food, rent and health care. That is the minimum.

The fact is, when a corporation like Walmart pays people less than a living wage, many of those people end up having to enroll in government programs in order to survive. This is basically the equivalent of taxpayers subsidizing them so that they don’t have to pay their workers as much and the higher ups can keep all the money to themselves. Certainly, corporations that do this should not be eligible for other government subsidies themselves. However, Walmart alone has received over 1.2 billion in tax breaks, free land and outright grants from governments across the nation.

In addition to supporting the workers on strike, I think we need to start demanding that companies like Walmart be exempt from this kind of corporate welfare.