Friday, November 28, 2008
This is Why Unions are Important
This morning a N.Y. Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a mob trying to get some cheap stuff as part of the annual "Black Friday" ritual. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when stores lower their prices in celebration of the Christmas shopping season.
Today was not the first time mobs, tramplings, fights, etc have occurred because of the Black Friday madness, and it only makes sense that some day it would end up resulting in death.
This year I had hoped that trends of decreased consumption in this country due to the economic downturn would result in fewer displays of violent greed, but clearly this was not the case.
While there is plenty of blame to go around (shoppers, police, management, etc.) I am thoroughly disgusted by the fact that this could easily have been avoided. The phenomenon of Black Friday is well known, to the point where Wal-Mart should have realized the potential dangers and made the appropriate accommodations. Wal-Marts nationwide have been the worst offenders in their lack of safety in the past, and incidents from previous years should have served as a warning that there needs to be a safer policy at Wal-Mart on this day.
Wal-Mart corporate has had all year to prepare its stores for this kind of disaster. I am of the opinion now that they simply didn't care enough to do anything to help their stores anticipate this. They really don't care about the safety of their employees at all.
It's really not a coincidence that this happened at Wal-Mart and not some other store. Wal-Mart has systematically fought unionization for its employees for years, and the culture of Wal-Mart has always been one that accommodates their customers at the utmost and treats their employees like dirt. They actually have anti-union propaganda as required viewing for orientation for new employees.
Unions are important. It's not just that they can fight for higher wages and better benefits for employees. This is important too, but what's more important is to protect employees from on-the-job dangers. Had Wal-Mart allowed their employees to unionize, those unions could have spoken on behalf of the employees arguing for better safety and security at work, especially on a dangerous day like Black Friday. No doubt a union would never agree to allow Wal-Mart to open their doors at 5 in the morning allowing thousands of customers to charge through the doors, especially with employees standing perilously between the customers and the marked-down merchandise.
November 28, 2008 is a day that should live on in infamy. Jdimytai Damour should not have died today. It is time to put an end to business practices that belittle and endanger employees for profits. It is time for Wal-Mart to allow its employees to unionize. The horrors of Black Friday should never be repeated.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Damour and his family.