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Walmart, the Most Powerful Company in the World, Admits that Protests and Strikes Lead to Wage Increases

Workers threaten to walk out on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Speedbump in Walmart's race to the bottom?

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The company at this point isn’t just a key purveyor of lower labor standards and a globalized and concentrated supply chain, it is a key tell for policymakers. Walmart data was used by the Federal Reserve’s FOMC to understand labor markets, inequality, health care costs, supply chains, and inflation.  As the global recession began to come into view, one FOMC member noted, ”It’s certainly disconcerting to hear that one of the largest private institutions in the world – Wal-Mart – is missing its growth targets fairly significantly.” It is as if the new maxim had become, what’s good for Walmart is good for America.

In the 1950s, the so-called “Treaty of Detroit”, an agreement between government, business, and labor for ever increasing wages at automakers, set the tone for the next twenty years of political economy. From the 1970s onward, the new social contract was increasingly set, not just by companies like Walmart, but by Walmart itself. As a new social contract, let’s call it the “Treaty of Walmart”, emerged as a deal cut between the US government, the Chinese government, and global trading corporations, American society began to reflect a race to the bottom. This strike is thus worth watching – if Walmart loses some pricing pressure because of tactics that impact the company’s supply chain or ability to sell, we’ll be in uncharted territory.

 

Matt Stoller is the former senior policy adviser to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He blogs frequently for Naked Capitalism. He appears on the FX show "Brand X with Russel Brand." Follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.