For the second time in five days – and also the second time in Walmart’s five decades – workers at multiple US Walmart stores are on strike. This morning, workers walked off the job in Dallas, Texas and Laurel, Maryland; Walmart store workers in additional cities are expected to join the strike in the coming hours. No end date has been announced; some plan to remain on strike at least through tomorrow, when they’ll join other Walmart workers for a demonstration outside the company’s annual investor meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas. Today’s is the latest in a unprecedented wave of Walmart supply chain strikes: From shrimp workers in Louisiana, to warehouse workers in California and Illinois, to Walmart store employees in three states – and counting.
“A lot of associates, we have to use somewhat of a buddy system,” Dallas worker Colby Harris said last night. “We loan each other money during non-paycheck weeks just to make it through to the next week when we get paid. Because we don’t have enough money after paying bills to even eat lunch.” Harris, who’s now on strike, said that after three years at Walmart, he makes $8.90 an hour in the produce department, and workers at his store have faced “constant retaliation” for speaking up.
On Thursday, as first reported at Salon, southern California Walmart store workers staged a day-long walkout of their own. Organizers say over sixty workers from nine stores signed in as on strike. About thirty of them were from the same store in Pico Rivera, where strikers and supporters rallied with labor leaders, clergy, politicians. “I’m still thrilled about what happened,” said Harris, who flew in for last week’s walkout. “And it’s given me a lot more energy and a lot more drive.” Other workers were visiting from further away than Texas: When the striking workers returned to work Friday morning, international Walmart workers marched into their nine stores with them, carrying their own countries’ flags.
One lesson that we can take from Occupy Wall Street is that successful direct action in the 21st century requires a lot of preliminary groundwork, grassroots demand, and then complete surprise.
Short, sharp wildcat strikes along the supply chain make a lot of sense. Will this take off, who knows?
I hope this is correct:
Before these work stoppages, “the other stuff had been so predictable from Walmart’s point of view,” Columbia University political scientist Dorian Warren said yesterday. They’ve always had activists coming to Bentonville. They’ve never had a disruption in their supply chain.” Warren, who’s co-writing a book on Walmart, said the strikes by warehouse workers and store employees are a game-changer: “There was ‘Before,’ and there was ‘After,’ and we just crossed that line.”