In all the retail stores in the US, the Friday after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. Black, as the opposite of red, in the bottom line of their financial status. Small shops to Big Box stores traditionally run special sales on that day, and bargain hunters may park their bodies outside their doors hours before opening time.
I was in North Carolina this past Thanksgiving and was invited to a Walmart store there for the festivities of Black Friday. Except, the event was not at the invitation of The Walton family. The bodies parked outside the front door were those of The Triangle Raging Grannies — Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill — and their children, friends and neighbors. They were there to protest the employment practices of Walmart everywhere and to dissuade customers from shopping there, at least while they were on the picket line.
Fifty-some in numbers, they carried signs, wore buttons, chanted, and sang songs of protest. One grandmother wore a wide brimmed Quangle Wangle hat, sporting buttons demanding justice of every sort. They were united in opposition to Walmart’s steadfast policy of hiring non-union workers and as many part-timers as possible to avoid paying benefits — all at barely above the shameful minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. In the assemblage, too, were many calling for world peace. A listing of the many messages carried and worn will give a better idea of the event:
Walmart – A Giant Welfare Queen
Low Pay Is Not OK
The Current Minimum Wage Is A Moral Outrage
Corporate CEOs Are Paid 475x the Average Worker
Respect Existence Or Expect Resistance
Health Care, Not Cooperate Welfare
Stop Endless War On The Poor
We Are The 99%
People Over Profit
Don’t Frack With Moms
Then were the Peace signs scattered throughout the crowd:
Witness For Peace
Peace Is The Church’s Business
I’m Already Against The Next War
Code Pink (with a reputation of anti-war ferocity)
WILPF (Women’s International League For Peace) [In reference to the peace organization started in 1915 which started as the International Congress of Women and later given the WILPF name that stands today The International Congress of Women was organized by Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch, Alice Hamlton and over 1000 other women from twelve different countries, many of whom were instrumental in forming WILPF.]
An observer from the North Carolina AFL-CIO was there to lend support. A visitor from Washington State came by to report on the recently enacted $15 minimum wage in that state.
All the protestors stayed on the walkways and did not block the entrance, but their presence must have dissuaded potential shoppers. I saw very few entering the store and only one couple exiting with a purchase.
The alliance between the activists demanding a livable wage and the peace advocates was notable in North Carolina, the state that started Moral Mondays a couple of years ago. The MM Movement united a broad front of those demonstrating for social and economic justice, for not disenfranchising voters, for saving the environment, and for world peace. It seems there are many people and groups who have valid complaints about getting short-changed by the governments, corporations generally, and Wall Street in particular.
Were the Raging Grannies right? The figure that the think tank analysts and the fact checkers have come up with is $8.81 an hour for the average Walmart worker. Walmart cried foul and proudly announced an average wage of $11.83. You know who employed statisticians and who used public accountants. Then came the irony. Many Walmart employees are also on Medicaid and/or Food Stamps. Moreover, Walmart often aids and abets the enrollment of their employees on these government programs for the poor, sometimes even giving out printed instruction sheets on how to apply!
The average Walmart superstore — they’re all superstores now — cost the government (US Taxpayer) over $1 million just in Medicaid and Food Stamps. In Pennsylvania, one in six Walmart Employees is on Medicaid. Florida supposedly is even worse.
A corporate official of Walmart admitted to knowing that Walmart’s wages are so low that many of the employees are on Medicaid and/or Food Stamps — it was in one of his e-mails. And, someone in management at Walmart must have have had the instruction sheets printed up and handed out. But, if employees can better themselves, without selling drugs or kidnapping , isn’t that the American (Capitalist) Way? And, shouldn’t Walmart be commended for cooperating with their employees to achieve the American Dream?
Well, no. Walmart is just encouraging socialism by helping employees to apply for government handouts. On the other hand, Walmart tells Wall Street that it can’t afford to pay its employees a living wage, else it will not be able to report a net income of $15.88 billion for the latest fiscal year in this land of free enterprise. Or, should we just call it Ring-a-levio (free-for-all) enterprise?