Friday, November 23, 2012
Walmart and Hostess workers protest in the streets, remind President Obama of why he got re-elected
Not content to bask quietly in the afterglow of President Obama’s re-election victory, workers are taking to the streets in a grassroots effort to bring attention to the erosion of their rights that modern-day neo-liberal economics has promoted.
Today, “Black Friday” for shoppers across the land, workers at Walmarts around the country are staging a walkout against the low pay and benefits provided by the world’s largest retailer, an outfit that enjoyed a 9 percent hike in income for the third quarter.
Arkansas-based Walmart’s effort to get the National Labor Relations Board to issue an injunction against the Black Friday walkout failed as the board stated the matter was too complex to decide in the short time frame given it.
A group called OUR Walmart is organizing the protest with the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers, an issue in the company’s call for an injunction. No company has fought harder against unions than Walmart.
Meanwhile, Texas-based Hostess Brands Inc. is blaming its striking workers for the company’s request for bankruptcy protection. Hostess, which produces Twinkies, Wonder Bread and other popular brand-name snacks and foods, is shutting down 33 factories nationwide and adding 18,500 workers to the jobless ranks.
After negotiating contract agreements with the Teamsters union, company management tried to force major cuts in wages and benefits on its bakery workers, but the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union agreed to strike rather than concede.
At the same time Hostess wanted its workers to swallow deep wage and benefits cuts, it also wanted to reward its executives with $1.75 million in bonuses.
“Wall Street vultures are blaming workers for getting rid of your sweets—and that’s just not right,” said AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka in a statement. “The Wall Street hedge fund managers who run the company have squeezed every cent out of Hostess for eight years. And they’ve put their friends with no experience in the baking industry in high-level management positions.”
Critics say company leaders have failed to keep pace with a changing market, struggled with debt, and failed to invest in its operations or workforce. The Silver Point and Monarch hedge funds control more than half the company’s debt.
The situation at Hostess is typical for modern-day corporate practices. Wall Street types run the company into debt and into bankruptcy, blaming workers instead of their own greed and management incompetence. Bankruptcy legalizes broken promises and helps clear the way for those at the top of the food chain to stuff their pockets before splitting.
This was the way of Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, and he would have further institutionalized such practices had he become president.
But Mitt Romney didn’t become president, and workers at Walmart, Hostess and other places we’ll read about tomorrow are out there on the streets reminding President Obama of why he got re-elected and that they’re not going to acquiesce to the old way of doing business any longer.