By Dawn Cranfield
Black Friday and the Non-Existent Wal-Mart Protests
For the past few weeks, I have paid close attention to the plight of the underpaid, underappreciated, and discounted Wal-Mart employees, and I have not been indifferent. I am sensitive to their needs for more compensation, benefits, and their desire to spend the holidays with their families. I even signed an online petition for another big box store to remain closed on Thanksgiving, not that it was very persuasive.
Both of my sisters work in retail, and one of them even works at the monster chain at the center of the controversial protests. They seem to grasp the concept that working in the retail industry precludes family time during certain times of the year, and they deal with the low wages understanding they have a job, not a career.
I struggled with dedicating a piece to something I view as another step towards civilizations’ cold-heartedness; where each dollar means more to people than their fellow American. When the notion of buying a discounted piece of technology that will be made virtually obscure within a month as the next “new and better” gadget is revealed has people camping out more than a week before, protestors had to know they would not be supported.
Wal-Mart executives are undeterred by the seemingly non-existent demonstration this year, “‘Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and
many of them did not include any Walmart associates,’ Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. president and chief executive officer said in the release. ‘We estimate that less than 50 associates participated in the protest nationwide. In fact, this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year.’” (Huffington Post.com)
However, looking at the Twitter feed for #walmartstrikers, it looks like more than 50 workers and more than thousands of supporters to me.
Reading some of the comments on the popular networking site, it is easy to see why the retail giant does not feel daunted by the rally against their treatment of the low-paid employees. Many seem to feel employers have a right to treat workers in any way they choose, as they can always quit and take a job elsewhere; they know there are many Americans out of work who will take their job, and their paycheck. Although, will they take it gladly, or will they be protesting next year when they receive a meager wage increase, cut hours, and no benefits?
There is also a lot of support for the workers, with Twitter users asking others to “spread the word”, “join in solidarity”, and “support the workers”; many posting pictures of the protest and proclaiming they will never shop at Wal-Mart again. However, I suspect they will the next time that glossy advertisement shows up in their mailbox or email account showing the $1.98 towels they can now purchase for $1.78 or the $0.20 they can save on macaroni. Everyone wants a bargain.
When our country was growing into the powerhouse it has become today, people stood together and fought for their rights, for what they believed in, and they stood together and made a difference. Today, we look out for number one; right, wrong or indifferent.
So, just like the Hostess strikes last week that saw the end of an era and the laying off of over 18,500 employees, nobody wins.