Organizing the Workers of Walmart: From Bentonville to Beijing
With over 11,000 stores in 27 different countries and $485+ billion in annual revenue, Walmart is not simply the world’s largest corporation: it is a global economic behemoth that seeks to dominate the local economy wherever it does business. Its economic footprint extends beyond its own stores to the retail sector as a whole and to the suppliers who manufacture most of the goods it sells. The Walmart “race to the bottom” business model of selling goods as cheaply as possible by reducing the cost of labor to minimal levels leaves the workers in its stores and its suppliers struggling to meet their most basic needs. In the United States, Walmart workers have had to go on public assistance, using Medicaid and food stamps, to make ends meet. To maintain this system, Walmart has pursued virulently anti-union policies.
China plays a pivotal role in Walmart’s global operations. Over 70 percent of the goods sold in Walmart stores worldwide are produced by Chinese-based suppliers. It is a major – and growing – force in the Chinese retail market, with plans to make it “an integral force in the Chinese economy,” according to one company spokesman. Last month, Walmart announced it was expanding its Chinese stores by a third.
Speakers will discuss campaigns to organize the workers of Walmart, in the United States and in China.
Han Dongfang, founder and director, China Labour Bulletin; former leader, Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation, Tiananmen Square
Duan Yi, chief lawyer, Guangdong Laowei Law Firm
Nelson Lichtenstein, Ph.D. , professor of history, University of California, Santa Barbara, director, Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy; author, The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business.
Emily Stewart, special executive assistant to the director of organizing, United Food and Commercial Workers