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Will Wal-mart Management Retaliate Against Striking Hourly Wage Workers?

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Is there 'something happening here?' Will the Wal-Mart hourly wage workers' strike slated for Black Friday snowball, or will it fizzle out? Furthermore, will the National Labor Relations Board give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the parent company, Wal-Mart's 'illegal strike filing?'

Or could the hostile filing, suggesting the workers are really seeking unionization (by way of the United Food & Commercial Workers), backfire big time, acting as an accelerant to growing concerns that Wal-Mart workers are consistently getting the short end of the stick?

These are sensitive and unanswerable questions at this point in time (its 4:51 AM CST, Tuesday, November 20, 2012). 'All's quiet on the Western Front,' as we used to say (well, I don't know whether we actually did). Is this the calm before the storm for something that looks like a newly realized proletariat revolution? Of course not, Wal-Mart workers' wages are so low they can't afford food, clothing, and shelter for their families. Their base hourly wage should be at least $13 an hour, which is what they're asking for.

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Over the past few days, I've been educating myself on what's been going on at various Wal-Marts, with reference to mistreatment of employees by management. Much of what I've learned comes by way of the excellent reporting of Josh Eidelson (from The Nation), who spoke to Ed Schultz (MSNBC) last night.

Two must-reads of Josh Eidelson are: Wal-Mart Strike Spreads to Texas as Organizers Promise Massive Black Friday Protest, and Wal-Mart Asks a Judge to Block Historic Strikes. Absolutely, required reading. I assign them as homework before you dash out and buy a bunch of stuff at your local Wal-Mart (whether you were planning to go Thursday night or Friday morning).

Two heroes (in my mind) are Colby Harris from Dallas and Sarah Gilbert from Seattle, who both have had enough of Wal-Mart management's arrogant and rotten attitude towards them. Colby Harris wants to stand up to Wal-Mart, knowing if he runs from this conflict (drawn sharply in the sand); others will cower against the mighty arm of the retailer, which has been ruthless to competition and its own workers for decades. Renewed courage comes to both Harris and Gilbert, having already survived one or two strikes.

The question here is the removal of fear of retaliation; the right to speak out for a set of grievances that are real and legitimate as it gets. Fair wages, decent working conditions, the observance of traditional American holidays (yea, such as Thanksgiving Day), ample health care coverage, and most of all, respectful treatment of the worker by his employer.

Sarah Gilbert was repeatedly humiliated by her manager at a Seattle store. Wal-Mart did nothing about it, so she joined in on a strike just last Thursday, Nov. 15th. Two co-workers left their shifts and joined Sarah on the picket line.

Courage begets courage, as more see they have the right to stand up for themselves. I mean, a lot of media is reporting this, and may act as a buffer between Wal-Mart workers and a perceived cold and callous management, who is so used to getting their way (they'll fire anyone who attempts to stand up to them). But the game has changed now; the worker has social media they can use as a lobbying tool.

Wal-Mart management is losing the advertising campaign for 'keeping their workers in place,' and they know it! Retaliation is out of the question. This would be like Bull Connor (in Birmingham) spraying Civil Rights workers with water and sending out his dogs (May 2, 1963). The eyes of media are omniscient! Any type of retaliation will guarantee a major boycott by loyal Wal-Mart customers. Who has the upper hand here?

Source: The Nation

John Kays identifies timeless remnants from our past that will endure, or be admired by future generations. Read more stories by John Kays.

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