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Just when I start feeling a little discouraged about the apparent apathy of the public in the face of rampant corporate and government corruption and exploitation, something I read tonight about an effort to unite Walmart employees in different countries to take coordinated action against this corrupt and brutal company, re-energized me and gave me hope.

Yes, I have to admit that for years I've been obsessively harping on the need for social justice activists to be more strategic in their approach; to come up with short-, mid-, and long-term strategies; to be innovative.

When it comes to union actions, I've felt that the rallies and walk-outs by themselves weren't enough.  I've come to the same conclusion regarding street protests and marches.

Is not that those things need to be done, but that they're not enough, nor that effective.

I've wanted to start seeing activists putting their heads together and think about these global monsters (corporations) as what they are: corrupt systems designed to extract the maximum amount of wealth from the population.

Once that's understood, then they need to be looked at a systemic level, piece by piece, trying to understand exactly how it works, and especially trying to understand their weaknesses.

Then come up with coordinated strategies to exploit those weaknesses in a very deliberate manner.

In fact, I've been wanting see the entire social justice and anti-corruption movement take that strategic and collaborative approach, across not only state boundaries, but internationally: worker of the world unite, type of thing.  

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which sprung up world wide almost at once, gave me great hope.  But after the brutal repression by police forces turned-corporate-goons, the whole movement seemed to sputter, to fizzle away...

But recently I've started to learn about many developments within the movement which I see as very hopeful.  Yes, I know that given the brutality that results from the collusion of supra-national corporations and the criminal international financial cartel (of which Wall Street is a member), and their puppet politicians in government, millions of people in Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, U.K., United States, and many other countries, should have rising up to stop the machine.  But hey, I'm not going to be too picky.  Any sign that the movement is getting smarter is a good sign.

In an article at Waging Nonviolence (People-powered news and analysis), Jake Olzen regale us with a very inspiring report: How the Walmart labor struggle is going global.

From the moment I started reading the article I became increasingly hopeful after every paragraph, recognizing many of my personal wish list of what I've been wanting to see in social justice activism.  Activists coordinating strategies across different countries; trying out different tactics, from the hard-nosed tactic of blocking entrances (in Brazil), to Black Friday protests at over 1,000 Walmart stores in the U.S., to carefully-drafted public relations (to educate the public) campaigns, media campaigns.

This monster, this corrupt behemoth is under siege, as it should:

A recent investigative report by The New York Times, for instance, alleges that Walmart used millions of dollars in bribes to sidestep legal and zoning procedures in Mexico. Revelations like this increase the likelihood that it will face legal action and fines for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The resulting scandal could cost billions as investors withdraw their capital. As Walmart executives know well, mere publicity stunts, when paired with the company’s very real dirty laundry, pose a serious threat. Additionally, the Danish pension fund PFA Pension has promised to withdraw almost $8.8 million in investments from Walmart due to the retailer’s low standards for workers’ rights.  And on January 10, a federal judge added Walmart as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by California warehouse workers that alleges millions of dollars in wage theft.

-Jake Olzen

But what really warmed my heart; what really brought a big smile to my face was reading about the concept of bottom-up unionism, and seeing the phrase "open source" used in this context was icing on the cake, since I've bee thinking and wishing to see this approach being used for years:

David Moberg, reporting for In These Times, notes how the kind of “open source” collective action that emerges from worker-leaders rather than paid organizers is a return to the community-based “alternative unionism” of the 1930s. In the United States, there is no single top-down national organization orchestrating the Walmart actions. Much like the Occupy movement’s encampments last year, the Walmart protests rely principally on local networks — stores, community groups, unions, student activists. An alliance between workers and tech-savvy Occupy veterans has made a formidable public relations force on social media. But the kind of activist-generated media that typifies low-wage workers’ struggles is also receiving a significant boost from media professionals.
I really encourage people to read the entire article.  I especially recommend that those who are engaged in social justice and anti-corruption activism read it to get ideas.  This is definitely the direction "the movement" needs to go, IMHO.

Now, I'll head over to twitter and try to contact the group who's planning a protest in San Francisco on February 22nd.  I read something about the possibility of some of the them engaging in civil disobedience, risking arrest.  I want to submit to the organizers this idea I've been working on, which I call, "Murmurations" which if follows, I think could achieve the goals of the protest without anybody getting arrested.

Or maybe a sub-group may like to try it... You see, I can't help but thinking about these things constantly.  It really bothers me to my core that a few tiny group of corporatists are doing everything they can, including buying off our entire government, to enslave us...


Originally posted to Ray Pensador on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 01:50 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, American Legislative Transparency Project, and ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting concept (6+ / 0-)

    The idea that by using social media, these workers could unionize without unionizing holds some promise.  

    Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

    by Mark Mywurtz on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 05:34:37 AM PST

  •  Interesting read Ray (6+ / 0-)

    From reading the article I didn't see any reference to the IWW - too bad.

    I just had any interesting experience at my work place where management has decided to instill in all but name a "company union". The idea was that the workers met with an appointed manager and aired their grievances and after a discussion to arrive at the main points higher management would be brought in to discuss it further. It's really a bogus event all the way around - management of course is looking to slice out the last remaining vestiges of "efficiency" and the talking it gives the workers a chance to bitch about each other (who in their right mind would complain about management TO management - it's intimidation, it really is). It's blatantly illegal, I believe, I need to study further to see how we can call them out on this through the NLRB.  I hope this is not a trend in industry. A sister companion to this travesty is employee sponsored ISO9000 discussions - which is just as intimidated because we get to grill each other (workers) on how they can better improve their processes and THEN report to mgmt... is this getting to be China or what??

    It stinks to high heaven and I see the need for a process that you have written about here where the organization is anonymous and global. Thanks for you diary Ray...


    by FakeNews on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 06:25:28 AM PST

  •  The effectiveness of a rally is chiefly its scale. (6+ / 0-)

    As I've asserted many times, many of which you have heard, put a couple of million organized people in D.C., a city of 660,000, and keep them there indefinitely, relentlessly delivering a consistent set of messages and demands, and we will get more change in 3-4 months than some infinite number of election cycles. Especially if that is group is constantly growing, not shrinking.

    I can't for the life of me figure out why 1% of the population isn't willing to do that by now. I know you wonder the same.

    Grassroots organizing, such as the Wal-Mart activity you are writing about, is terrific. And, as you say, even more so if it organizes nationally or even internationally. No doubt it could ultimately impact corporate policies and practices, if it finds the right combination of actions to take. We will see. As with moving money from banks to credit unions, that too will depend on scale. At what point do you achieve the critical mass necessary to topple the pillars that hold the established plutocracy up?

    There are other approaches, such as developing and working through parallel, local economies and methods of self-governance, but they all look like they will take many generations to develop.

    How we get critical mass now is the big mystery. I'm guessing that it will take a core group of organizers to step out on a limb and work out the logisitics, having faith that if the infrastructure is put in place, they will come. And then those who do come will have to have faith that their basic needs will be met and the determination to see it through the inevitable inconveniences and struggles.

    The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

    by Words In Action on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 06:46:01 AM PST

  •  Walmart has had limited success expanding into (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brae70, Ray Pensador

    other countries.  This open source activism has potential to further blunt their efforts if other countries with better records of worker protections are made aware of their dismal record in the US.

    “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

    by ahumbleopinion on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 07:46:09 AM PST

    •  WalMart has done very well outside the US (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ray Pensador, FG

      and is the source of most of their growth.  International sales grew rapidly from $109.2 billion in 2011 to $125.9 billion in 2012

      Meanwhile they grew US sales slowly from $260.3 billion in 2011 to $264.2 billion in 2012.

      See the 2012 10k filing Walmart gave to the SEC at

      The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

      by nextstep on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 08:47:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Their sales outside the US are less than half (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ray Pensador

        of sales in the US?  That does not sound like "very well" given the population distribution.  Many US companies have much higher % of international sales.  And Walmart's success has been hard to achieve and slow in coming.

        I used to work in a company that did business with Walmart and saw their struggle to expand outside the US up close.  But that has been several years ago, so maybe they have picked up their game since then.

        “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

        by ahumbleopinion on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 10:40:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Their international growth will make (0+ / 0-)

          International sales larger than US sales this decade.

          The only US companies with larger international sales in dollars than Walmart are Exxon and Chevron.

          The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

          by nextstep on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 11:02:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  This is what I call "small-u unionism". (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador, metonomy, FG, JesseCW

    Check out this article that explains this concept and compares it to the style of "business unionism which is the prevailing model in North America today:

    In addition to OUR Walmart, there are such groups as Warehouse Workers for Justice and  the Coalition of Immolake Workers.  

    Another good example is Jobs With Justice, an organization linking workers both in and outside of "official" unions.

  •  Let's celebrate and encourage collaboration, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador

    particularly effort which use the immense technical and creative talents of our fellow progressives.  This is truly the way forward.  Our side just has to be savvy enough to use the pre-written material the right-wing is handing us, seemingly, day after day after day.

    Here is another related idea. Wife had a birthday yesterday. She has long loved eating at Olive Garden.  I said OK, not wanting to politicize a birthday wish.  Place was packed, and we ate elsewhere.  We live in TN, a very right-wing place, but I do remember seeing that OG & their parent corporation profits took a big nationwide hit after their stated claim that ObamaCare was forcing them to screw their employees.  In the spirit of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, how about a clearing house or easily accessible list of restaurants and other companies that treat their employees well?  I seem to remember that Little Caeser's does better than the infamous Papa John's, but it is hard to keep it all straight without a reference.  I think it possible to make a real point that pissing off 50% of one's potential customer base is not a winning strategy. The beauty of such a strategy is that it really costs someone nothing more than what they have already committed to spending, and each "voting" occurrence can be sizeable one of $50-100,or even more. I'd be very likely to drive the 15-miles across town to our single Costco location rather than 3-miles to WalMart, especially if I knew I was part of a larger effort.

    •  We're thinking the same way.... Right now I have (0+ / 0-)

      a sheet of paper to my left where I've been making some notes for my next diary, where I'm going to be describing an idea for a "systemic" approach to activism using the wide-area-network technology concept.

      You're idea fits perfectly into what I'm going to be proposing.  I'm putting together a collaborative think tank and I'm looking for volunteers.  If you like, you can visit my website at and join my email list.  

      I'll be sending an email blast once a week.

  •  Tactics at Walmart (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador, JesseCW

    The way forward is not going for NLRB elections at present. But whatever tactics are chosen, the attempt will have to be on a regional or national scale. Benton will continue to close individual stores rather than see a union get a toe-hold. Going the NLRB route just results in Benton sending up its million dollar flying squad and totally outspending any union attempt.  But present ground up  movements show some promise.  I'd like it if the national group called itself INFORMED WALMART WORKERS.  (IWW.)

    •  That's why we need to act from the ground up. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There are good public servants in government, but as a whole we can't only count on these "regulatory" agencies.  They are on the take, pretty much, or have been under-funded and undermined on purpose by the Republican thugs and the weak and complicit Democrats.

  •  New Organizing in Madison (0+ / 0-)

    Please show your support to the workers of CapTel based in Madison, WI. Please visit: and living wage campaign

    If you know anyone that uses the CapTel service please pass it along to them and let them know that their Captioning Assistants need their help.

    This is organizing that started 2 years ago during the height of the Madison "uprising". This is also outside the influence of the "business unions".  

    I am a recently fired organizer from the call center in Madison, WI.

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