Destroying Communities, Abusing Workers: What's (Still) The Matter With Wal-Mart
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The service economy has raised fundamental questions about what being a worker means, about the nature of work itself. “The inability to revalue this service labor reverberates all throughout the economy,” Bethany Moreton said. It's important to remember that manufacturing jobs weren't good in themselves; they were good because a labor movement fought for decades to make them well-paid, stable jobs that came with benefits.
Wal-Mart claims to value service work, but these claims and its use of “family values” language fall apart when one looks at the company's policies. Nguyen noted that the small businesses in L.A.'s Chinatown are family run and actually allow families to support themselves, and the arrival of Wal-Mart would threaten, not help, those families. “We have to fight this idea that we just need jobs. If it's a job that nobody can support themselves on, someone's going to have to make up for that.”
“We're going to continue to run actions and pressure the Wal-Mart board of directors until they sit down with us,” Ana Diaz, one of the C.J.'s Seafood workers, said. From Louisiana to Los Angeles, the fight against Wal-Mart and what it stands for goes on. Forcing change at the world's biggest retailer, the activists all point out, would also reverberate across the global economy.
Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @sarahljaffe.