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WalMart Empire Clashes with China

Nik McGettigan (via artistsvswalmart.tumblr.com)

Typically when we hear “WalMart” and “China” in the same sentence, we picture the “made in” labels on our toys, gadgets, and the other mass-produced stuff that we grab off the shelves at low low prices. But WalMart’s vast retail empire has a whole other wing in the Middle Kingdom. As the brand has expanded aggressively into the coveted China market, it has engendered a new wave of Chinese shoppers–and legions of workers to serve them. The rise of a Westernized consumer culture has also generated familiar tensions around labor, inequality and workplace rights.

Just in time, too: as demonstrations mushroomed WalMart stores and warehouses nationwide, a disgruntled WalMart employee was leading a small uprising in the coastal boomtown of Shenzhen. His agitating and organizing work has led to a partnership with SACOM, a Hong Kong-based labor rights organization that has previously taken on the notorious Apple manufacturer Foxconn.

The conflict began last summer when Wang Shishu, a 52-year-old WalMart store employee and outspoken labor activist, helped lead a campaign against plans to cut pay and slash benefits. When a small strike involving about forty workers broke out, the management cracked down.

CommunityMy FDL

WalMart Empire Clashes with China

Nik McGettigan (via artistsvswalmart.tumblr.com)

Typically when we hear “WalMart” and “China” in the same sentence, we picture the “made in” labels on our toys, gadgets, and the other mass-produced stuff that we grab off the shelves at low low prices. But WalMart’s vast retail empire has a whole other wing in the Middle Kingdom. As the brand has expanded aggressively into the coveted China market, it has engendered a new wave of Chinese shoppers–and legions of workers to serve them. The rise of a Westernized consumer culture has also generated familiar tensions around labor, inequality and workplace rights.

Just in time, too: as demonstrations mushroomed WalMart stores and warehouses nationwide, a disgruntled WalMart employee was leading a small uprising in the coastal boomtown of Shenzhen. His agitating and organizing work has led to a partnership with SACOM, a Hong Kong-based labor rights organization that has previously taken on the notorious Apple manufacturer Foxconn.

The conflict began last summer when Wang Shishu, a 52-year-old WalMart store employee and outspoken labor activist, helped lead a campaign against plans to cut pay and slash benefits. When a small strike involving about forty workers broke out, the management cracked down.

According to SACOM’s petition: (more…)

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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