Friday :: Feb 11, 2005

Welcome To Wal-Mart, Joe Hill

by pessimist

Mega-merchandiser Wal-Mart has graced our pages before. It is again due to this series of posts which touch upon a topic near and dear to me personally.

In the past, Wal-Mart has been successful at repelling union organization attempts, at least until a small group of meat cutters in Texas were able to organize a local in 2000. Wal-Mart proceeded to shutdown all the butcher shops in which they all worked, offering instead pre-packaged meats, and these intrepid laborers lost their jobs all through the chain:

Wal-Mart is in fact rabidly anti-union, deploying teams of union-busters from Bentonville to any spot where there's a whisper of organizing activity. "While unions might be appropriate for other companies, they have no place at Wal-Mart," a spokeswoman told a Texas Observer reporter who was covering an NLRB hearing on the company's manhandling of 11 meat-cutters who worked at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Jacksonville, Texas.

These derring-do employees were sick of working harder and longer for the same low pay. "We signed [union] cards, and all hell broke loose," says Sidney Smith, one of the Jacksonville meat-cutters who established the first-ever Wal-Mart union in the United States, voting in February 2000 to join the United Food and Commercial Workers. Eleven days later Wal-Mart announced that it was closing the meat-cutting departments in all of its stores and would henceforth buy prepackaged meat elsewhere.

Well what do I find today? Wal-Mart is at it again!

Wal-Mart to close unionized Quebec store

Wal-Mart Canada is closing its store in Jonquiere, Que., the company announced Wednesday – six months after the workers won union certification. Wal-Mart said it was unable to reach a tentative agreement with the union that would "permit it to operate the store in an efficient and profitable matter."

Last week, the union asked the Quebec minister of labour for binding arbitration to reach a contract in Jonquiere. The union said no progress had been made.

The union disputed Wal-Mart's contention that the closing was for financial reasons. UFCW Canada spokesman Michael Forman told CBC Business News the closing was "a gross infraction of labour practice" and "an assault on all Canadians" and said the union would continue the fight.

But he acknowledged that it would make other Wal-Mart employees think twice before voting for union accreditation.

Ask for your rights, lose your job? Is that what we have come to?

Yassuh, Massa!

There are other unization efforts underway at various Wal-Mart stores in both the US and Canada:

Another Quebec Wal-Mart, in Saint-Hyacinthe, won union certification in January. Wal-Mart, which the UFCW calls "staunchly anti-union," is facing certification applications at about a dozen other locations in Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia – including applications representing workers at seven Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express departments in B.C.

US Labor Organization Efforts

Wal-Mart workers may have union election

The National Labor Relations Board ruled Friday that employees at a Colorado Wal-Mart tire department may hold a union election. An election will likely be scheduled for late February, NLRB spokesman Wayne Benson said. If a majority of workers vote for organizing that would mark the first time in several years that a union has gained a foothold in a U.S. outlet of the world's largest retailer.

Wal-Mart has a response for these efforts. This from a handbook for Wal-Mart managers:

walmart's additude of it's you, not us !!

it;s from their anti-union it about a year ago on the walmart survivors site......

the possibility that the company invites closer inspection of it's activities is not an is us......not the company directives or leadership.......

The manual is true. Wal-Mart Managers think their associates are stupid and can't think for themselves and Wal-Mart Managers shouldn't judge because most of them can't think for themselves. So how could they think for anyone else! Did anyone read the Wal-Mart Managers Profile. It was a web page over on AOL it was written by a former Wal-Mart Manager.

Here's a tidbit about how this former Wal-Mart manager contends Wal-Mart thinks about its customers and employees:

We are doing you a favor by letting you work here! We are doing you a favor by letting you shop in our store! Wal-Mart believes this now! Do You? If [not] you might want to start looking for some alternatives for work and/or shopping!

This attitude isn't so different from that of the Bu$h (mis)administration, whose thoughts about those of us who don't qualify as Topper$ could result in a situation faced by these Chinese workers employed by a Wal-Mart supplier (from: Toys of Misery:

13- to 16-hour days molding, assembling, and spray-painting toys--8 a.m. to 9 p.m. or even midnight, seven days a week, with 20-hour shifts in peak season.

Even though China's minimum wage is 31 cents an hour--which doesn't begin to cover a person's basic subsistence-level needs--these production workers are paid 13 cents an hour.

Workers typically live in squatter shacks, 7 feet by 7 feet, or jammed in company dorms, with more than a dozen sharing a cubicle costing $1.95 a week for rent. They pay about $5.50 a week for lousy food. They also must pay for their own medical treatment and are fired if they are too ill to work.

The work is literally sickening, since there's no health and safety enforcement. Workers have constant headaches and nausea from paint-dust hanging in the air; the indoor temperature tops 100 degrees; protective clothing is a joke; repetitive stress disorders are rampant; and there's no training on the health hazards of handling the plastics, glue, paint thinners, and other solvents in which these workers are immersed every day.

As for Wal-Mart's highly vaunted "code of conduct," NLC could not find a single worker who had ever seen or heard of it.

It's getting to be like this for many American workers, particularly those whose employers are members of the Topper$' Club and have forgotten what it's like to have to work for bastards like themselves. They don't know what it's like to have to live paycheck to paycheck and still not have enough to cover more than the mere basics of life's necessities. They don't know what it's like to have to deny any luxuries whatsoever, for they can afford anything they want any time they want it. After all, they earned it by exploiting hundreds or thousands of workers through threats and intimidations that use this very situation they impose on their workers as a weapon.

So Who Is Joe Hill And Why Should We Care?

Joe Hill was the pen name of a Swedish immigrant named Joel Emmanuel Haggland, who after years of sdrifting through America, working a series of low-paying, thankless jobs, and encountering thousands of immigrants just like himself, became enamoured with the IWW and began to write organizing articles and labor songs about the nation he had adopted, viewing it as a sea of suffering, poor families held captive at the feet of a handful of wealthy and powerful individuals.

Is that so different than the country Bu$h seeks to make out of that in which we now live? I say no.

More and more of us are facing the loss of a comfortable employment income because for the Topper$ too much is never enough. We have to suffer the consequences of their addiction to greed just so that they don't have to face these consequences themselves. They use every tactic and strategem available to impose their will upon us, and we allow them to do so with minimal protest. the basic attitude seems to be: "It hasn't happened to me, so it never will."

Yet, when it does, aren't they shocked to learn that they are no better than scum to the Topper$! If they are above a certain age, they find that employers aren't interested in them because they aren't young, dumb, and strong. They might discover that they don't have the necessary job skills (Hindi-speaking? Mandarin?) or experience to keep the high-paying jobs. They might discover that all of the job retraining subsidies they paid into have been absorbed into the War on Terra, and aren't for them anyway - they're for new immigrants who will work for much less than they will accept.

So faced with this prospect, all one can do is liquidate one's assets, pay off one's debts (if one can), and settle for a lower-class subsistance until the Grim Reaper finally comes calling.

There is precedent for a country like this: Sparta

The ideology of Sparta was oriented around the state. The individual lived (and died) for the state. Their lives were designed to serve the state from their beginning to the age of sixty

The single, overwhelming fact of Spartan history is the Messenean War. In the eighth century BC, Sparta, like all her neighbors, was a monarchy with a limited oligarchy. In 725, however, needing land to feed a dramatically growing population, the Spartans marched over the Taygetus mountains and annexed all the territory of their neighbor, Messenia.

Today, we need oil to feed a growing population of gas-guzzling SUV toys for rich kids, so we invade oil producing countries.

The Messenians occupied a fertile plain and the Spartans found themselves with more than enough land to support themselves and their newly conquered people. However, like all conquered people, the Messenians did not appreciate the loss of their independence.

Just like Americans aren't going to like the loss of their financial independence.

The Messenians were turned into agricultural slaves called helots . We describe their lives as the life of a "serf," for they worked small plots of land on estates owned by Spartans; part of their produce went to the master of the estate, and the remainder went to the helot farmer and his family. There's no question that the life of the helots was a miserable life. Labor was long and hard and the helots always lived right on the border of subsistence.

As Bu$hCo feels the majority of us should also live to serve our betters!

With the help of the city-state of Argos, the Messenians revolted in 640 BC. This was no ordinary revolt, for not only did the Messenians almost win, they almost destroyed Sparta itself.

Here's how the situation stood for Sparta at the end of the Messenian revolt. Almost defeated, controlling the territory of a subject population that outnumbered their population ten to one, it was only a matter of time before this subject population would overrun their conquerors. So the Spartans invented a new political system as dramatically revolutionary as Athenian democracy in the north: they turned their state into what amounts to a military state.

The military and the city-state became the center of Spartan existence. The state determined whether children, both male and female, were strong when they were born; weakling infants were left in the hills to die of exposure. Exposing weak or sickly children was a common practice in the Greek world, but Sparta institutionalized it as a state activity rather than a domestic activity.

Bu$hCo isn't about to allow infanticide any more than they will allow procreational choice, for every embryo is a Soldier for Christ's Oil Crusade! But with their efforts to eliminate a functional Social Security program, can it be denied that they would welcome geriatricide? Some people today (at least as of 2/5/5) would welcome such a state activity!

At the age of seven, every male Spartan was sent to military and athletic school. These schools taught toughness, discipline, endurance of pain (often severe pain), and survival skills. At twenty, after thirteen years of training, the Spartan became a soldier. The Spartan soldier spent his life with his fellow soldiers; he lived in barracks and ate all his meals with his fellow soldiers.

He also married, but he didn't live with his wife; one Athenian once joked that Spartans had children before they even saw the face of their wives. The marriage ceremony had an unusual ritual involved: at the end of the ceremony, the man carried his wife off as if he were taking her by force (this did not mean, however, that the status of women was bad in Sparta, as we shall see later).

Only at the age of thirty, did the Spartan become an "equal," and was allowed to live in his own house with his own family — although he continued to serve in the military. Military service ended at the age of sixty.

At which point one would be expected to remove himself from life to avoid being a drain on the resources of the state? No - they became the state:

At the top of government was the monarchy; the monarchy, however, was a dual monarchy. Below the monarchy was a council which was composed of the two kings plus twenty-eight nobles, all of whom were over sixty, that is, retired from the military. The council debated and set legislative and foreign policy, and was the supreme criminal court. Below the council (or above it), was an assembly of all the Spartiate males (a democracy, in other words) that selected the council and approved or vetoed council proposals.

Above them all, however, was a small group of five men known as the ephorate. For all practical purposes, Spartan government was the ephorate, for these five men led the council, ran the military, ran the educational system, ran the infant selection system, and had veto power over everything coming out of the council or the assembly. They even had power to depose the king; however, they needed powerful divine proof (in the form of omens or oracles) to exercise this power.

But what if God chose you to be pResident?

So what kind of government was Spartan government? It was a democratic timocratic monarchical oligarchy. Chew on that a few times.

Side note: If you want a more modern example of what such a society could be like, rent Starship Troopers - Civilian!

But I digress.

If the state puts all of its citizens into the military, who makes it go by farming and other activities?

How did the soldier survive? How did Sparta afford to feed young men who did nothing but soldier in their twenties? Each soldier was granted a piece of land, which he probably never saw; this land was farmed, of course, by the helots. The anxiety-ridden situation with the helots led the Spartans to fear even their neighbors, who were often sticking their spoons in that pot to brew up trouble.

The ancient version of terrorists under every bed?

So in the sixth century BC, the Spartans began to set their military sights on neighboring states. However, when they conquered their neighbor, Tegea, they set up a truce with them rather than annex their land and people. They demanded instead an alliance. Tegea would follow Sparta in all its foreign relationships, including wars, and would supply Sparta with a fixed amount of soldiers and equipment. In exchange, the Tegeans could remain an independent state. This was a brilliant move on the part of the Spartans. In a short time, Sparta had formed alliances with a huge number of states in the southern part of Greece (called the Peloponnesus), and had become the major power in Greece when the Persians invaded in 490 BC.

In some ways, this sounds like the Coalition of the Billing, but that's the subject of another post.

It's clear to me that a purge of sorts is underway in this nation, and the selection of the desireables is determined economically. If one can provide a lot of profits at little cost, that presense is tolerated. But should one cost more than one can produce? "They should just die and decrease the surplus population."

We have become such a bottom-line country that even human life is considered expendable. There is no value to that life unless someone else benefits financially from it. Can we be far off from a legal ruling which states that one's life belongs to one's employer? Would it then be such a stretch to imagine that slavery and indentured servitude - both staples of the Old Confederacy, by the way - will once again be legal in this land?

Unless things change, in which people recognize this threat and decide to actually live by the moral values they claim to abide, then I declare that this will be our future. We will all be slaves, laboring until we die for the comfort and wealth of the Topper$.

I say - Live Free Or Die.

"Stand your ground; don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." - Captain John Parker, Lexington MA, 1775

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pessimist :: 9:32 AM :: Comments (16) :: Digg It!