FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

In Solidarity With Walmart Strikers

Walmart is the largest employer in the U.S with more than 1.4 million workers. And it’s one of the most virulently anti-union employers. In the handful of cases where employees have managed to unionize (most notably meat cutters at the store in Windsor, Ontario), Walmart has closed stores to prevent the cancer from spreading.

This time, though, Walmart workers are doing something different: They’re organizing by just doing it, without even trying to jump through hoops and certify union locals under the Wagner Act.

The main organization involved in coordinating their efforts is OUR Walmart, backed by SEIU and UFCW. Starting with a walkout from a Los Angeles store on October 9 — apparently the first ever in the U.S. — Walmart workers struck in dozens of stores around the country. They protested in the hundreds outside company headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Striker  spokespersons around the country took advantage of the publicity to air Walmart’s dirty laundry, including cuts in hours and other reprisals against workers who raised concerns with local management.

Meanwhile, warehouse and supplier workers have disrupted the Walmart corporate supply chain with wildcat strikes. Matthew Cunningham-Cook refers to it as workers “using globalization against Walmart” (WagingNonviolence.org, October 24). This model — “wildcat strikes on multiple levels of the supply chain” — is “unprecedented.” The worldwide distribution of supply chains, with components manufactured at hundreds of locations around the world, was originally a weapon to defeat labor by offshoring production to low-wage areas. But workers are beginning to discover that distributed supply chains are a two-edged sword:

“… [T]he key to Walmart’s success has been getting low-cost goods to customers at precisely the right moment according to microanalysis of market patterns. But that is also what makes it so vulnerable to work stoppages. Workers at key points in the supply chain can create massive disruptions in the process.”

OUR Walmart plans a nationwide strike on Black Friday — including walkouts, flash mobs, picketing and leafleting — and is encouraging consumers to boycott the store on the busiest shopping day of the year.

A wave of strikes by workers with no ties to any recognized union is a fundamental departure from the conventional model of unionism. But it’s also a return to an older model of organizing — updated for the network age.

Walmart workers aren’t the first to return to this model of networked labor activism. The Coalition of Immolakee Workers — an uncertified union of agricultural laborers centered in Florida — has over the last several years won a string of major victories against fast food chains. Relying entirely on boycotts, support by coalitions of social justice movements, and negative publicity for their corporate targets (what Wobblies call “the open mouth”), CIW have forced Taco Bell, Burger King, KFC and Chipotle to raise wages for farm workers.

My Center for a Stateless Society colleague Charles Johnson notes that this was a victory achieved “not by ‘working within the system’ (meaning, voting, lobbying, and and playing by the NLRB rules), but precisely by chucking the whole rulebook out, ignoring campaign promises and electoral time-sinks, and pursuing wildcat strategies that would have been totally illegal if CIW were interested in operating like a normal state-licensed labor union.”

Read that again: These efforts would have been LESS effective if they’d followed the conventional model of union organization set up under FDR. Sympathy and boycott strikes by workers in corporate supply and distribution chains — one of the most effective strategies ever invented — were criminalized by the Taft-Hartley Act. Indeed, Walmart is appealing to the National Labor Relations Board to suppress the Black Friday strike.

The state has always served the interests of employers. Even when labor got a seat at the table in the New Deal era, it was because big business saw it as in their interest to coopt establishment unions. When it ceased to be in perceived corporate self-interest, the state turned against labor. It’s time for workers to fight for their interests, regardless of what either government or business wants.

This model of activism is just another example of the way agile networks run circles around twentieth century-style bureaucratic, hierarchical institutions like giant corporations and government agencies. Workers don’t need bureaucratic dinosaurs like the NLRB or AFL-CIO to protect them against big business. It’s big business that needs the state for protection.

We stand in solidarity with Walmart workers, and fully support their Black Friday strike. And we strongly encourage all readers to boycott Walmart, and to show support for picketing Walmart workers in their areas. May this be the first of many painful lessons for Walmart on the new world they’re living in.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

 

 

More articles by:

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail