Thursday, November 04, 2010

"What About The People Who Work at Walmart?"

Someone asked me the other day, "if we all stop shopping at Walmart and Target..." (in order to send a message that we don't just want "the cheapest deal," we want justice for the poor and fair wages & conditions for your workers & employees) "...then what about those people who work there and need it to make a living?" If we all stopped shopping at Kmart, Walmart, Target, & the Mall, then wouldn't a lot of people be without work? It's a valid question but I think it's one on which corporations that pay $8 an hour for 80 hour work-weeks and outsource work to children in Honduras for $.40 a day must thrive. It justifies their injustice by disguising it as justice or a necessity... they have to be what they are in order to provide so many jobs.

I'm no economist, but I'm pretty sure that money doesn't disappear if it's not spent at the mall. The money we don't spend on unfair trade isn't going to disappear. That's why we must take it a step further. We can't stop simply on not shopping. We can't hoard the money we don't spend in frivolity. We can see to it that the same money we would have wasted on corporate consumption is put to use for those who need it... to change the system and to provide jobs. The same woman who was making minimum wage, working 19 hour shifts, can now make a decent living providing things that people actually need and, since the money didn't disappear, there will be funds available for that. The same young man who was breaking his fingers for less that $1 a day, making dolls to be sold at Disneyland, can now work for fair wages under decent conditions because we, the consumer, will have sent the message that justice is necessary in order to compete in our market... much more necessary than thriftiness.

It may all sound impossible or Utopian but, whatever the case, I don't think we need to worry too much about these kinds of corporations just yet. They're making record profits and their higher-ups are pretty comfortably wealthy. The people who are living in grinding poverty all over the world in the name of the free market are much more in need of our sympathy than the superstores. The working poor of urban America need our consciousness and our conscience much more than Kmart does.

We need to do more than just stop our cash flow... that's not the point at all. We need to transform our whole culture in the direction of simplicity rather than accumulation and compassion rather than greed. How we shop is only just the beginning.

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