After His Wet-Kiss To Wal-Mart, Will The President Mention Wages?

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini1 Comment

Each day comes another example of stupid, confusing, contradictory messaging from the president. Maybe the whole thing about inequality and raising the minimum wage is, for the president, just an exercise in politics. But, man, get the fucking politics right. Which does not include embracing Wal-Mart.

So, the president is taking a road trip on his fancy plane: he’s off the visit a Wal-Mart store in Mountain View, California to essentially praise Wal-Mart for its work on energy efficiency (and, if you wonder why you’d pick that one, I am 100 percent sure there is a high-dollar, Silicon Valley/similar rich peoples fundraising event or two happening at the same time…so taxpayers get to pick up the tab for the trip).

Now, for the record, the Beast of Bentonville has, in fact, embarked on a large-scale energy efficiency program. And, as the monster in the room when it comes to dictating supplier standards, it can have a huge national effect on energy efficiency and climate change.

Which underscores, even more, what a complete moral travesty the corporate “culture” of Wal-Mart truly is when it comes to wages and benefits. Wal-Mart’s billionaire owners–the ones who would rather spend millions of dollars on rare paintings or discriminates against women, or refuses to sign a key safety code in Bangladesh or is a persistent violator of workplace laws–could, tomorrow, change the conversation on the minimum wage by declaring that it would pay the $10.10-an-hour for its workers that the president and Democrats are promoting (as an aside, I reiterate the point that the $10.10-an-hour campaign is truly pathetic but that’s for another time).

So, what is the average worker to think? She or he sees the president running around the country arguing for the hike in the minimum wage and, then, I see on the news he’s over there at Wal-Mart, which a whole lot of people now know, thanks to a very good union campaign, is the blight on the country when it comes to setting the lowest standard possible for wages and benefits given the huge wealth of the Beast of Bentonville’s owners.

As our union comrades point out (Wall Street Journal paywall):

“President Obama will stand side by side with a company known for low wages, few benefits, unreliable hours, discrimination against women, violating workers’ rights, and yes, environmental degradation,” said Joe Hansen, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, also took issue with the visit and urged the president to take the opportunity to push another priority: income inequality.“As the country’s largest employer, there is no escaping the fact that Walmart’s poverty level wages have contributed significantly to the decline of the middle class in America,” said Maria Elena Durazo, the group’s leader. The company employs some 1.3 million workers.

And as this very powerful personal essay from a Wal-Mart worker points out:

When I woke up to see the news, I could hardly believe it: President Obama is planning a visit to the Mountain View Wal-Mart where I work.But the excitement quickly passed when I found out the store would be shutting down hours in advance of his visit. I wouldn’t be able to tell the president what it’s like to work at Wal-Mart and what it’s like to struggle on low wages, without the hours I need. I am living at the center of the income inequality that he speaks about so often, and I wanted to talk to him about how to change this problem.

My situation is not unlike that of many of the 825,000 Wal-Mart associates – and many other Americans – who are working hard, but just can’t keep up. Most of us aren’t even paid $25,000 a year even though we work at the largest employer in the country and one that makes $16 billion in profits.

The politics of this are just dumb.The question (I know the answer) will be: will the president say anything about Wal-Mart’s atrocious working conditions and wages? Crickets.