Walmart’s horrendous labor practices have long exploited the American working class and it’s anti-union extremism makes it a nearly impossible place to organize, despite significant resources from unions going toward efforts to open it up to unions. The same labor policies are in place in China and Chinese workers, increasingly empowered to stand up for themselves, are making the same complaints.
Activists like Zhang Jun are part of an increasingly militant rank-and-file movement, which runs a loose network of about 5,000 Walmart workers across China, organized through social media, and has forged ties with labor advocates in Hong Kong and even the United States, with an open letter expressing solidarity. Though Walmart’s China operations count for just 3 percent of global retail sales (contrasting with China’s outsized manufacturing role in Walmart’s supply chain), they employ more than 100,000 workers at 433 outlets in 169 Chinese cities.
The Walmart brand itself turns out to be an ideal organizer. The plans to introduce “flexible” schedules as part of a workforce “optimization” program have galvanized workers’ anger across China, along with rising fears of labor deregulation.
Zhang Jun tells The Nation that under the initiative, workers would face intensified workloads and be deprived of legal recourse to challenge unfair schedule policies in the civil legal system. The destabilization of working conditions would “potentially make workers more fearful and less assertive in voicing their concerns on various grievances in terms of organizing unions,” he adds.
Walmart in China contends the “flexibility” initiative has “support from the majority of employees,” but it would “maintain open communication with” others “who are temporarily unable to understand,” reports The Sixth Tone. Walmart Corporate representative Marilee McInnis states via e-mail that the system “will enable Walmart to execute strategic talent management.”
Of course, if Walmart is using the same worker model in China as in the U.S., it can use its security model as the U.S. too, which is to call the cops for every little thing, effectively outsourcing its security onto taxpayers.
The Express-Times, like the Tampa Bay Times, found that Walmart was the site of more police calls in one year in its region than anywhere else. It published a similar story to the investigative report that had appeared earlier in the Tampa Bay Times and showed how Walmarts here had accounted for about 16,800 calls in a year, or two an hour, every hour of every day.
Casey then wrote to Walmart President Doug McMillon, urging the company “to examine its internal security protocol to ensure effective deterrence measures are in place and reduce the burden on local police.”
“Of course, police protect and serve every member of our communities, but the significant volume of calls from Wal-Mart stores raises serious questions about whether the company’s current security infrastructure effectively deters crime without overburdening local police departments, many of which already operate on stretched budgets,” the senator wrote in the letter, a copy of which The Express-Times posted online.
The Tampa Bay Times found that a large portion of calls to Walmart were for shoplifting, but an even bigger slice concerned general disorder, including drunk customers, mouthy teens and panhandlers. Experts said that more staffing, uniformed security and better store layouts could help Walmart deter many of those problems.
Casey contended that “large retailers like Wal-Mart bear responsibility to have in place reasonable security measures to assist in the deterrence of frivolous crimes.”
Reasonable security measures are for suckers. Walmart didn’t become a successful corporation through caring about anything but it’s bottom line. And I don’t doubt the Chinese police will be happy to help, especially if there are union organizers involved.