In supporting reported plans for a strike by Wal-Mart employees Brown University professor and Current TV contributor Tricia Rose criticized the corporation for treating its workers as less than human.
“It’s grindingly aggressive, anti-human being statements,” Rose said on The Young Turks Monday. “Like, ‘Well, people are lining up for these jobs, we’ll just fire them. I mean, it’s just sort of, mistreat, mistreat, as low as possible, and expect people to get away with it.”
One reason the company is able to do that, Rose noted, was getting people to see themselves as consumers, rather than workers in their own right, thereby demonizing people looking to organize.
With Wal-Mart looking to kickstart the critical Black Friday weekend sales period early, a standoff has developed between the company and a workers’ advocacy group, Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). The retailer has asked the National Labor Relations Board to curtail any employee walkouts, while accusing OUR Walmart of being a thrall of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
“We think what they’re doing is illegal,” the company’s vice president of communications, David Tovar, said in a Wal-Mart-sponsored segment on Fox News Monday. “They’ve been doing these kinds of demonstrations for more than 30 days, but this week, like I said, we are focused like a laser on Black Friday and we think it is going to be an awesome day at Wal-Mart.”
As co-host Michael Shure pointed out, even full-time employees at the company, who average 34 hours a week, make less than $9 an hour, placing them under the poverty line.
But media coverage of labor issues, fellow panelist and Buzzfeed contributor Michael Hastings said, tends to frame labor forces as being opposed to consumers, focusing on how strikes and demonstrations inconvenience customers instead of relaying the situations that lead to workers organizing in the first place.
“I think the only way for people at Wal-mart to raise their wages is to do something like this, is to protest the fact that they’re actually putting their lives on the line at these Black Friday stores,” he said.
Watch the discussion of the company’s treatment of its employees, aired Monday on Current TV, below.