Quite possibly THE biggest threat to our way of life is competition from Walmart. Walmart will do anything and everything in its power to not allow their employees the right to form a union. Workers have been fired, and entire stores have even been shut down. The ability of workers to stand up for themselves is severely eroded in these situations. Walmart then takes advantage of those workers, paying them horrible wages, and the ones who are lucky enough to get benefits end up with an awful benefit package. The first part of that sentence is worth repeating: Walmart takes advantage of their workers.
So, what does this mean to us? Why should we care? By treating their workers so poorly, Walmart is able to offer lower prices to consumers, taking customers away from union employers. This means that those union employers aren’t as successful as they could be, and as a result, they hire fewer people. In addition, those same union employers feel the same pressure to erode OUR wages and benefits as well! EVERY TIME WE SHOP AT WALMART IS ONE STEP CLOSER TO BEING TREATED LIKE A WALMART EMPLOYEE.
John Scearcy, President of Teamsters Local 117, minced no word when asked about this very topic. “Teamsters in the grocery industry enjoy fair wages, benefits, and working conditions,” John said. “Walmart is a direct threat to this and it is very important that Teamster members and their families understand their power as consumers. The thought that solidarity and collective bargaining has resulted in higher wages that in turn are spent at Walmart only to erode the those gains is COMPLETELY INSANE!”
What about those who don’t work in the grocery industry? Is it okay for them to shop at Walmart? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Walmart’s business practices have a negative impact on the ENTIRE COUNTRY. John explains, “Without adequate hours and wages, many Walmart associates are forced to rely on taxpayer-funded assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid which has a negative impact on our economy.” Indeed, 15% of Walmart employees earn so little that they qualify for food stamps. That comes out to $300 million per year, almost all of which is spent directly at Walmart.
Let that sink in for a moment. BECAUSE Walmart pays their employees so little, they receive what is essentially an EXTRA $300 million per year of OUR TAX DOLLARS! The American taxpayer is in essence subsidizing Walmart, subsidizing and rewarding anti union practices that are harmful to people. Yes, harmful to people. Any of you who have lived below the poverty line know the toll it takes on people, emotionally, psychologically, and even physically. And, John reminds us again, “Many employees that have spoken out for better working conditions at Walmart have faced retaliation, including being outright fired.” Each time we shop at Walmart we ourselves are one step closer to these conditions.
And while it’s true that we want to protect and preserve our way of life that we fought so hard to achieve, this goes beyond that. This is deeper. This is a moral issue. It is WRONG to shop at Walmart. It is wrong for us to support that kind of business. Business that succeeds only off the backs of its workers, while happily taking taxpayer dollars to boot. John Scearcy, President of Teamsters 117, agrees. “If you agree that each of us has a social responsibility to community then I feel it would be wrong to patronize Walmart. Walmart is the largest US employer with tremendous power to build up the economy in this country by simply providing their employees with good pay and benefits.”
“Bringing a Walmart bag into the lunchroom is detrimental to the ongoing push to increase member awareness and involvement. It sends a message to the membership that ‘the threat isn’t real’ or “it’s okay to shop at Walmart regardless of what our Unions leadership says”. I feel that the true strength of this Union is rooted in the level of solidarity on the shop floor.”
The message is loud and clear. DO NOT SHOP AT WALMART. And keep those bags out of our lunchroom!!!!!!
This article was written by Josh Putnam, a Shop Steward at Fred Meyer. Josh is a member of your Union's communications committee.