If your email box is like mine you are inundated with requests to give to candidates or to take some urgent action to protect something of interest to the progressive community. I probably get 20+ of these a day and a handful just from the Obama campaign.
Affecting real change sometimes requires more than giving to candidates or causes. It involves helping the least among us achieve simply a living wage and decent working conditions.
As you may have heard, there have been sporadic walkouts at Walmart stores across the country. The very brave strikers need your help. They need to keep from starving when they go on strike, and they particularly need your help on the upcoming Black Friday when many of them plan to walk off the job. You can help by sponsoring a striker. Link below the fold.
I imagine many of you once worked retail. It's a common experience. Most of us here working retail probably didn't have to try to survive on retail wages. You probably used the money to supplement your income while boarding rent free with mom and/or dad. Some of us though did have to eke together a living on these wages. I was one of these people 33 years ago, working for the now largely defunct Montgomery Ward Corporation.
Back then we were shafted right and left. But back then the minimum wage also bought quite a bit more than it did today. It was enough for me to live cheaply in Gaithersburg, Maryland with a roommate. I couldn't afford to maintain my car so I walked, biked or bussed to work. I took a bus to get groceries, a challenging logistical exercise in the suburbs. I worked as a commission salesman at Wards, but frequently took home the minimum wage. Due to a lack of customers, I rarely earned enough in commission to earn my wage. I was constantly on the brink of losing my job, and the unemployment rate then was as bad as then as it is now. I was expected to make sales quotas even if there were no customers and even when management flooded the floor with other salesmen, making us literally race to be the first person to talk to a customer.
Today, it's much more difficult as the series of life as a retail worker here on dKos attests. Walmart, Target, KMart, they are all much the same but arguably Walmart is the worst of the worst. It's not just the employees they screw, but everyone: the warehouse workers, suppliers, even managers to some extent. Employees work like dogs and are treated like dogs, with few breaks and lots of extra hours, often unpaid. Walmart has already settled one suit for back wages that were unpaid.
Maybe is is quixotic, but if we can break Walmart and force them to use their $15B in annual profits to pay their people a living wage, real change is possible among the whole retail industry. Walmart is the country's #1 largest employer. They make for a big target.
In 2009 on Black Friday, a Walmart employee on Long Island literally died due to the greed of Walmart and its customers. Maybe this year we can help make real amends.
Let's use the power of the progressive community to affect real change. Let's give these Walmart strikers some tiny portion of our income so they can eke by while they walkout. It may be a long shot, but it is worth it.
I have never forgotten those miserable years and I have vowed that when I had the time and money I would do my part. I contributed $75 to their strike fund and hope to do more.
Walmart and retail workers are the working poor. It's not that they are unwilling to work. They work their asses off, and often have second or third jobs trying to make ends meet. And it's still not enough, and Walmart shareholders are laughing all the way to the bank.
Give these brave employees the means to stand up. Let's fill their strike fund. Maybe it will encourage even more Walmart employees to strike, spreading the impact.
Here's where to go to contribute: