Walmart workers have already begun striking at scattered stores across the country, as part of the 1,000 protests planned this week culminating on Black Friday. Venanzi Luna, a Walmart associate in Pico Rivera, Calif., took time out from her strike to join us for a live panel discussion. Luna was joined in conversation by a conservative and a left-leaning policy analyst, the author of a Walmart book, and a Walmart associate in Fort Worth, Texas. It quickly turned more raucous than the protest chants outside (watch the full video below), as the group debated whether the strike was justified.
Some background: The Walmart strikes this week are part of a new strategy for Walmart organizers, which have in the past focused -- unsuccessfully -- on organizing individual Walmart stores. Even Walmart hasn't been able to ignore the national scope and media attention of this latest effort. The big box chain filed a labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board last week, seeking to stop OUR Walmart (the acronym stands for Organization United for Respect), one of the groups behind the strike, from following through on its threats.
The organizers say their strike is in protest against unfair labor practices, and so is legally protected. They fired back with its own labor charge on Tuesday, accusing Walmart of intimidating workers from taking part. Federal officials said they may decide on Thursday whether to issue an injunction to prevent the Black Friday strike from taking place.
But if the strike procedes, will it really accomplish anything? Why are the Walmart workers striking now? Do they have the right to do what they're doing? Why don't the frustrated Walmart workers just "find a new job," as one of the panelists proposed? And can Walmart improve the conditions for its workers while still providing the lowest prices -- the philosophy that turned Walmart, over the last 50 years, into the largest retailer and employer in the country?
These were among the questions addressed by the panel. (Walmart declined to participate.) The panelists were:
- Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart.
- Billy Lyons, a Walmart associate in Fort Worth.
- Venanzi Luna, a striking Walmart associate in Pico Rivera, Calif.
- Matt Patterson, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Center for Economic Freedom, who has written extensively on labor politics in The Washington Examiner, The American Spectator, Fox News and others.
- Charles Fishman, award-winning business journalist and author of the bestselling book "The Walmart Effect."
- Catherine Ruetschlin, a policy analyst at Demos, a left-leaning think tank.
See the highlights of the Hangout below:
The panelists touched on everything from labor rights, unions, corporate responsibility, the free market and the civil rights movement.
Watch the entire conversation below:
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