Walmart Protests Amount to Little
Walmart reported its best Black Friday ever (Black Thursday, really, since the sales started on Thanksgiving night), in spite of union-inspired strikes at a number of stores across the country. “We work hard, so we just want a decent wage,” said one participant.
Now please, I already know that Walmart trucks use government roads, etc. Not the point.
Gary North, one of the few people I willingly pay to read, was correct in his predictions. An excerpt:
Then there is this: union membership has been falling constantly in the United States for a generation. Shoppers are no longer intimidated by a picket line. There are so few union members left in the economy who will honor another union’s picket line that picket lines no longer have any effect. I haven’t seen one in a long time at any retail establishment where I shop. So, the entire strategy of striking against a retail chain has not worked for so long that younger voters don’t know what a picket line is, and they don’t know they are supposed to honor that picket line by refusing to go into the store and buy something.
The American economy has changed radically since 1970. Attitudes towards the labor movement have changed. To imagine that a tactic that has not worked for a generation will somehow work in pressuring America’s largest retail establishment into reversing its corporate policies that have been in effect since the beginning in the 1950s is, as I have said, utterly naïve. It makes me wonder why anyone would accept the leadership of a union whose officers think that this particular tactic is still viable in the United States.
It is very difficult to organize white-collar workers. It is becoming increasingly difficult to organize blue-collar workers who rely on computerized retail systems to earn their livings. Someone can stand at a cash register and punch in a few numbers. That person has no crucial skills. The only way for the union to keep high wages is to make it illegal for people with minimal skills to bid for the protected jobs. The only way to get the government to support the union in this action is to get 51% of the workers to vote for the union. But this proves almost impossible these days. Other workers want jobs, and they recognize that they don’t want a bruising fight to keep those jobs in a company whose very existence is based on competitive volume purchases of all assets, including labor. Nonunion members perceive that unionizing the store will affect their careers negatively. They are no longer willing to vote to join the union.
In the USA, unions are a legacy of the past. I think we will see this on Black Thursday. We will see this by not seeing picket lines. The invisibility of the lines will make the failure of the union’s strategy visible to anyone who has heard about the strike.