As some of you may remember, I did a version of this graphic last year, at the onset of my Occupy Los Angeles euphoria. I imagined Occupy having a major impact economically on Black Friday, sending a signal to Wall Street that reform was coming, that Occupy was a force to be reckoned with (pardon my preposition–it loses the effect otherwise). I was woefully wrong in my assessment of our capability for halting such corruption, and hopelessly idealistic that we would ultimately enact meaningful change in the banking industry… a thing I was certain had omni-partisan support. I am still waiting for my change, Obama, and increasingly without hope that you will be the initiator of it.
What does give me hope anew is the campaign of Wal-Mart workers nationwide to strike on Black Friday. Being from Arkansas, the homeland of the ubiquitous discount mega-store, I was inculcated from an early age to the virtues of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. Mr. Walton, according to the company’s website, said, “If we work together, we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone… we’ll give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.”
Apparently the good life does not extend to Wal-Mart’s workers–half of the company’s one-million American hourly employees earn less than $10 per hour. Further, the retail giant customarily keeps workers at part-time hours in order to avoid paying benefits, like medical insurance, that are accorded to full-time employees. These part-time employees often must rely on government assistance like food-stamps in order to survive. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart’s CEO, Michael Duke made more in an hour in 2010 than most of his employees made in an entire year. That’s approximately $16,826.92, according to Chicago alderman Ed Smith via ABC News. (Duke made $35 million in 2010.)
I don’t believe Sam Walton would have stood for this, nor Uncle Sam for that matter. A “better life” must have meaning, and must equal, at a minimum, a living wage. This Black Friday, let us give thanks to labor by showing solidarity in this socioeconomic struggle, a struggle to live the American Dream. Find a protest near you at Corporate Action Network. #BlackFriday #AboutTime