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. 

June 20, 2018
Henry Giroux
Trump’s War on Children is an act of State Terrorism
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail