My stepdad co-owns and operates a grocery store in Oklahoma. It has been serving Moore through tornado after tornado for many years. When I was home for the holidays and went to pick him up to take him to get his truck, he was just coming back from a funeral for one of his store’s customers. He works every day of the week, except Sunday, and the store is only closed one day a year: Christmas (half day on Thanksgiving).
When I need a ride to the airport for a 7 am flight back home, it’s not a problem because he typically leaves that early to go to the store. As the co-owner, he does everything from a cleanup on aisle six to cake decorating and stocking the shelves.
A few years ago, just days after Christmas, he told my mom and me that the new “thing” being built six blocks away from his store was a Walmart Neighborhood Market. Not long after that, I discovered this graphic which shows the growth of Walmart in the United States over the last several decades:
Activists across the country have fought back against Walmart’s corporate model. Basically, they are slashing prices so low, that they can put local, privately owned stores, out of business. The problem is, low prices often come with low wages. It is unclear whether the national boycott, the strikes and the bad press are responsbile for the major announcement today, but Walmart intends to close 269 stores globally and all 102 U.S. Walmart Express stores will also go. This blow will put 16,000 workers out of a job.
Walmart says that they hope to relocate many of the workers to nearby stores, but OurWalmart.org isn’t optomistic. ” Despite having nearly 20 stores in a 10-mile radius, dozens of long-term employees are still out of work 9 months later,” they said in a statement.
Walmart has revenue of $485 billion and the Walton heirs are among the top wealthiest Americans – they can afford to treat these workers fairly by reinstating them into nearby stores and not put more burden on taxpayers by filling the unemployment lines.
In April of last year, a store in Pico Rivera, CA was closed, the employees were told, due to “plumbing problems.” The truth, however was that the store wanted to shut down after workers held a strike to advocate for a union.
Julia Sanchez, one of the laid off Pico Rivera, CA workers who put in for a transfer, reapplied at Pico Rivera when it reopened and she opened up her availability hoping to catch on at a Walmart somewhere else. She said in the release:
If Walmart treats these workers like they did after the Pico Rivera store closing, what we’re really talking about is 10,000 associates losing their jobs.
What Walmart has done to communities is strip them bare so that small businesses no longer exist. So when these stores shut down, jobs are no longer available at alternative stores. This is just more unfair treatment demoralizing workers. Sad.
Feature image via Wikimedia commons.