The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

True, Wal-Mart is an enemy
– and so are all the rest!

Nov 7, 2005

A New York Times reporter unearthed a memo showing one part of corporate America’s war on the working class. A Wal-Mart vice-president sent the memo recommending ways to hold down health care costs:

<ul><li>Recruit younger (healthier) workers;</li><li>Discourage older workers from applying, by cutting 401(k) contributions;</li></ul>

The memo caused a hue and cry among union leaders and liberal groups that frequently characterize Wal-Mart as Public Enemy No. 1.

In fact, Wal-Mart – with its poverty wages, cheating workers on overtime, locking fire doors, keeping workers on part-time status (and their children on food stamps) – is assuredly an enemy of workers. But the next question is: which company is NOT? Which company in this day and age doesn’t practice the same things that Wal-Mart preaches?

Even in the part-privatized U.S. Postal Service, temporary workers are kept on “part-time” status for years even while working more than forty hours a week. The same is true from the biggest auto plant to the smallest pizza joint. And where is the worker whose pay has not been deliberately shorted, and shorted again?

In all but the most exceptional businesses, workers may be injured on the job, but when it comes time for workers’ comp claims, suddenly the injury was a “pre-existing condition” or some other such excuse. Legions of company lawyers make their livings by defeating workers’ illness and injury claims in courts. Insurance companies exist less to pay workers’ claims than to use any preposterous excuse to deny claims.

None of this is exclusive to Wal-Mart. It was all going on long before Wal-Mart got here.

It’s impossible to condemn Wal-Mart alone – unless one hasn’t thought very far. Or unless one has an interest in using Wal-Mart as a sort of decoy – pointing fingers away from difficult problems that are right there in one’s own back yard.