Workers who've been fired by Walmart for their activism set a Labor Day deadline for Walmart to rehire them and raise wages to a livable level, or see the largest mobilization against Walmart since Black Friday. But, predictably, Walmart didn't rehire the 20 workers it fired after they went on strike in June; nor did it rescind other forms of punitive discipline leveled against dozens more worker activists. And it certainly didn't raise wages.
So what's next? Protests in 15 cities are scheduled for this Thursday. The timing of one of those protests is particularly important; the Large Retailer Accountability Act passed by the Washington, DC, city council to give big box store workers a living wage of $12.50 an hour was sent to Mayor Vincent Gray last week; it's still unclear if he'll stand up to Walmart and sign it. And Washington will be the site of one of Thursday's protests, as will Los Angeles, where a Walmart has been proposed in Chinatown. The plan is for significant rallies in those and a dozen other cities.
Protests like these highlight not just the below-subsistence wages paid to Walmart workers themselves, but the way the chain drives down wages at other retailers, relies on government assistance to enable its workers to get by on poverty wages, and actually kills jobs.
That's right. Walmart kills jobs. Walmart's terrible effect on the jobs economy is no secret. Numerous studies show this:
The largest, most rigorous study conducted on the subject is a peer-reviewed article from 2008. Its lead author is economist David Neumark, who is no wild-eyed liberal. (See, for example, an anti-minimum wage op-ed he wrote for the Wall Street Journal). [...]
Using data from over 3,000 counties, their results show that when a Walmart store opens, it kills an average 150 retail jobs at the county level, with each Walmart worker replacing about 1.4 retail workers. These results are robust under a variety of models and tests.
Other highly influential studies found similar results. A 2008 peer-reviewed study that looked at Maryland concluded that Walmart’s presence significantly decreased retail employment. And a 2009 study by Loyola University found that the opening of a Chicago Walmart store was “a wash,” destroying as many jobs as it created: “There is no evidence that Wal-Mart sparked any significant net growth in economic activity or employment in the area,” according to the report.
So Walmart is causing pain with across the board—lower wages, job loss, more need for government assistance for working people.
And it is with this growing accumulation of evidence that workers are taking to the streets in an effort to draw the public's attention to Walmart's questionable practices -- how it bleeds local communities dry of jobs, pushes smaller retailers out, and lowers the bar for how companies should treat its employees.
Well, Walmart workers are not taking this lying down. Stated one Walmart activist worker: "We have tried repeatedly to gain a hearing from Walmart's corporate office. Our efforts have been to no avail. Sometimes, after one's repeated efforts to be heard are dashed, it is time to stand up and make them listen."