Josh Eidelson at the Nation reports:
Walmart employees are on strike in Miami, Massachusetts and the California Bay Area this morning, kicking off what organizers promise will be the first “prolonged strikes” in the retail giant’s history. The union-backed labor group OUR Walmart says that at least a hundred workers have pledged to join the strikes, and that some workers walking off the job today will stay out at least through June 7, when Walmart holds its annual shareholder meeting near Bentonville, Arkansas. (Emphasis added.)
“This represents the first time in Walmart history that workers have made the decision to go on prolonged strikes,” said United Food & Commercial Workers Union official Dan Schlademan, a key strategist in the OUR Walmart campaign. Schlademan called the workers’ willingness to escalate to prolonged strikes “another example of the depth of leadership and commitment that this organization is building.” OUR Walmart has close ties to the UFCW, which has also backed past pressure campaigns against Walmart, and failed efforts to unionize its stores.
The 100-person walkout is more symbolic than anything else since Walmart employs an estimated 1.4 million people in the US. In other words about 1/1400th of their workforce is reportedly striking.
Big Labor has made trying to unionize the non-union retail giant for several years now and OUR Walmart is their latest effort, following the anti-Walmart PR campaigns of Walmart Watch and Wake-Up Walmart. More recently they’ve turned to more direct efforts at organizing workers. While they have been able to win some PR battles, labor’s progress has been modest to date.
In related news, the White House leaked that it was nominating Jason Furman to replace Alan Krueger, as the head of the Council of Economic Advisers. Furman is the economist who famously argued that Walmart’s low prices save U.S. consumers $50 billion a year.
At press time, Walmart has not responded to a request for comment. The retail giant’s spokesmen may already be extremely busy though considering that Walmart just recently pleaded guilty to dumping hazardous waste in California and agreed to pay a $81 million fine.