When progressives push for better wages, and conservatives argue that interference with the free market is unacceptable, keep stories like this one from the Cleveland Plain Dealer in mind.
The storage containers are attractively displayed at the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton. The bins are lined up in alternating colors of purple and orange. Some sit on tables covered with golden yellow tablecloths. Others peer out from under the tables.This isn’t a merchandise display. It’s a food drive – not for the community, but for needy workers. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” read signs affixed to the tablecloths.The food drive tables are tucked away in an employees-only area. They are another element in the backdrop of the public debate about salaries for cashiers, stock clerks and other low-wage positions at Walmart, as workers in Cincinnati and Dayton are scheduled to go on strike Monday.
The takeaway from a story like this is disheartening: Walmart employees, at least at this Cleveland store, feel the need to take up collections to help feed other Walmart employees. Many like to think those who work for a living shouldn’t struggle to put food on the table, especially in the wealthiest nation on the planet, and yet, here we are.
Norma Mills, an organizer with Stand Up for Ohio, told the Plain Dealer, “That Walmart would have the audacity to ask low-wage workers to donate food to other low-wage workers – to me, it is a moral outrage.”
A company spokesperson responded that employees caring about other employees is a positive: “It is for associates who have had some hardships come up. Maybe their spouse lost a job. This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships.”
Vanessa Ferreira, an OUR Walmart organizer, didn’t find that especially persuasive: “The company needs to stand up and give them their 40 hours and a living wage, so they don’t have to worry about whether they can afford Thanksgiving.”
* Update: The headline above identifies the Walmart as in Cleveland, and the original article included a Cleveland dateline, but it’s worth noting that the specific store is in Cantor, which is about an hour south of Cleveland.