This week, Walmart workers in 12 states have walked off the job, in a wave of strikes set off today with a protest outside the investors’ meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas. Their numbers are tiny so far: mere dozens out of 1.4 million Walmart employees nationwide; a workers’ organization, OUR Walmart, claims just 5,000 dues-paying members, most of whom are still not on strike.
But online, their impact is outsized. Walmart has set up a website, Walmart 50, commemorating its 50th anniversary with lots of heartwarming videos from employees, whom it calls "associates." OUR Walmart has its own website, Walmartat50.org, with its own videos. They’re not as upbeat about the anniversary, to say the least.
The videos on Walmart’s own site take place in a world in which Walmart, which claims an average hourly wage of $12.54 for full-time workers (most are part-time), is a great place to build a career. "The long-term growth I have with the company is outstanding," says Sherlita Kennedy, an assistant manager.
Meanwhile, Walmartat50.org tells us about Kehlan Williams, a teenager, left taking care of his three younger siblings as his mother worked unpredictable shifts and then was abruptly fired. And Angela Williamson, fired after missing work due to a kidney infection and then evicted from her apartment.
Walmart could not be reached for comment. The company has successfully and vociferously opposed union drives before (except in China, where they’re a cost of doing business), and will likely prevail in this case. This campaign may not dent Walmart’s market share, or even do much reputation damage--the people who hate Walmart already hate Walmart. But it’s now there on Google, as a permanent counterpoint to the company’s own sunny take on its employment practices.