join the purple ocean

You may know that Wal-mart has launched a multi-million dollar advertising blitz to counter its well-deserved image as an enemy of the people. The company bought hundreds of TV and newspaper ads to spread its propaganda and defend its indefensable policies.

Purple Ocean, the political arm of the Service Employees Union (SEIU), is fighting back with a different sort of weapon. Through a grassroots, hand-to-hand campaign, people who care about workers, the environment and community life will help spread the facts about Wal-mart.

I encourage you to read the facts and invite your friends to read them, too. You can track who has accepted your invitation on an animated map that follows your fact sheet as it spreads across the country. Check it out here. I think it's an excellent opportunity to put the old activist's axiom in motion: each one, reach one.

The smart folks at the SEIU have also linked the campaign to a contest. From the original email:
Start the chain by passing on the facts, then see how from day to day, your individual influence spreads the word. If you're one of the first 25 people whose chain grows to 200, then you'll receive $1,000 towards your health insurance expenses—or, if you already have health insurance, we'll put it into a fund that will help provide health insurance for Wal-Mart workers who can't afford it. (The official rules are online at http://www.purpleocean.org/walmart/officialrules)
In launching their campaign, Wal-Mart's CEO H. Lee Scott recently said that he was tired of the criticism of the world's largest retailer - tired of the criticism about its poor pay, bad benefits, sexual discrimination, and poor working conditions. He said he was "tired of being nibbled to death by guppies." Let the nibbling begin!


Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Up here, they've just successfully unionized two Wal_marts in Quebec, and another four or so are going through the certification process now.

We also don't have Super Walmarts. Large Canadian grocers like Loblaws sort of launched a pre-emptive strike by changing their format to include things like electronics, clothes, and gas stations to ward off a invasion of the grocery market by Walmart like what's happened in the states.

Now, I actually like browsing around in Wal-Mart. We don't really buy much there except Baked Lays and the occasional DVD, but wandering around the store can be fun on a cold day, especially since its fairly close. I can actually see the Big Box strip from my appartment bedroom, but the nearest (decent) mall is a fair distance. In the summer, we usually go to the ByWard Market (farmers stalls, neat stores, lots of restaruants) but in the winter it's way too cold.

A lot of Canadian cities like Toronto or Calgary have all the buildings downtown connected by pedways or tunnels, but Ottawa doesn't have that luxury.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
laura k said...

(Kyle: I just deleted a duplicate post.)

Unionized Wal-marts! That's two words you won't hear together in the US.

I admit those kinds of stores are fun to walk around. They're just such terrible employers. Cheap stuff comes at a high price.

Rognar said...

Quebec is really big on unions. I was a grad student there a few years ago and at the time, even teaching assistants were unionized.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Quebec is very pro-union, and the government is union friendly. It's a french thing.

But it gave a lead for other unionization efforts in Canada:

"The Saint-Hyacinthe location joins the Wal-Mart in Jonquiere, Quebec as the only other unionized Wal-Marts, not just in Quebec but in all of North America. UFCW Canada said it is currently attempting to negotiate a contract covering workers at the Jonquiere store.

Wal-Mart, which the UFCW calls "staunchly anti-union", is also facing certification applications at about a dozen other locations in Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia – including applications representing workers at seven Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express departments in B.C. "


I worked at Loblaws as a teenager, and we were unionized. We even went on strike once. The benefits were pretty good for a part-time job, but I think the union has had trouble lately. In Ontario, Loblaws is building all new stores under its Real Canadian Superstore banner which are not unionized in this province. The union contract stipulates that all new Loblaws stores must be unionized, but apparently by using a different banner they got around that part of the contract. The main reason they're trying to dump unions is to apparently compete with the non-unionized Wal-Marts.

laura k said...

Teaching assistants at universities are a big focus of unionization in the US right now. Conditions are usually pretty bad and they stand to gain a lot.

The union that's organizing them is also the parent to our National Writers Union (to which Allan and I both belong) so I keep apprised of their progress.

Re those stores using different names to skirt their contracts, it really shows you how an employer like Wal-mart can depress the whole market. A rising tide floats all boats, and an ebbing tide strands them all, too.