Sisters and Brothers:
You’ve probably seen news accounts of the Walmart deal the past couple of days. Don’t believe them! Here is an account from SOUL’s perspective on the ground, without the Mayor’s or Walmart’s spin:
The Good News
For the first time ever, Walmart, the world’s largest corporation has negotiated on the issue of wages. This now sets a precedent for other communities and for further organizing here in Chicago. Through this campaign a burgeoning coalition of faith, labor, and community is forming to fight upcoming battles for working people and their communities!
First, be clear. This is a significant victory! Without the work of SOUL and the rest of our Good Jobs Chicago coalition, Walmart would have eventually entered Chicago with NO conditions! The political will to withstand Walmart's efforts, their money and the mayor’s fervent support and arm-twisting would never have been strong enough without our organizing on the other side! Our hard work paid off.
The agreement Walmart put in writing, as a result of our organizing, is this:
They will pay their workers 50 cents above the minimum wage initially, and after a year will pay at least an additional 40 cents per hour more. This is different from the Mayor’s quoted assertion that they will earn the 40 to 60 cents at Walmart’s discretion, which would be meaningless. Whether it’s 40, 50 or 60 cents is discretionary but the 40 cents is a minimum committed in writing. This means an additional $1040 over current wages for an employee in the first year and an additional $1872 per year in the second year.
Now that is not a lot of money. In fact at best Walmart would be paying $19,032 per year.
But our victory is worth an additional $156 per month for an employee. That might amount to a bus card and a week of groceries, or a month of all utilities and some clothes, or perhaps being able to wash your clothes and afford a phone to stay in touch with a child. That makes the victory VERY significant to the low-wage Walmart worker.
The Bad News
Walmart is the largest corporation in the world. They are one of the most profitable. Along with other big box retailers and corporations in general, they need to do much, much better by their workers. No one should have to work for a living and be poor! No one should have to figure out how to live, much less raise a family on less than $1500 per month (minimum wage). Clearly our struggle for good jobs, living wages and corporate responsibility is very much an uphill one, with so much of our government, Congress, courts, lobbyists, media, and all that big money currently arrayed for corporate profits, and against workers, consumers, and communities.
We need more organizing, more people, more money and more power on the side of the people! So SOUL urges you to be a big part of that struggle.
In organizing we must weigh what is optimal and ideal with what is realistic, possible and feasible. Otherwise, for the sake of our own self righteousness, we gain no victories along the way. This victory is significant if you are a Walmart worker able to buy a bus card, some groceries and keep your lights on; it is significant for other communities as a blueprint and a precedent to fight; and it is significant for a variety of political and strategic reasons. It should be fully celebrated. It was hard work and many of you turned out—some of you on multiple occasions—for actions, press conferences and committee hearings. This work was important. We made the richest and most powerful corporation on earth negotiate with community and labor for the first time ever, and make concessions on wages for the first time ever! Let us claim that victory.
But let us also redouble our efforts to grow our resolve and our power, recruit new members and allies, donate funds, come out and become more active so that the victories become bigger, greater and more frequent.
Those who aren’t part of the solution are complicit in the problem. All power resides in organized people. Thanks for your support and hard work in being the solution, both in what you have done, and in the great things you are about to do
In that vein, here are some Action Steps:
- Come out to the SOUL Action Council this Monday, June 28 from 7 to 8:30 PM at St Stephens Lutheran Church, 8500 S. Maryland Ave.
- Donate money for our organizing through click and pledge on our website [see "DONATE" link on sidebar]
- Call me to sit down and discuss how you can become more involved in ways that captures your interests, concerns and skills—773 330-5684.
Walmart has cut a deal concerning its plans to build on the Southside of Chicago. Here is a message concerning this development from David Hatch, Executive Director of SOUL: