"Sam Walton is Turning in His Grave!":


by Larry Langford, Labor/Community Alliance

On December 10, the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, approximately 50 people from local unions, churches, and
community groups gathered in front of the Wal-Mart Store on West Shaw in
Fresno as part of a national campaign known as the Season of Conscience,
an attempt to convince the retail giant to reveal the extent of its
dependence on sweat shop labor and to correct the abuses to which the overseas
workers that manufacture its products are often subjected.

Representatives from Jobs With Justice, the Central Labor Council,
several SEIU locals, the CFA, the Steelworkers, the Interfaith Alliance, the
College Community Congregational Church, the Fresno Center for Non-Violence, KFCF-FM Radio, and WILPF all joined together to gather signatures, hand out
leaflets, and display banners calling the public's attention to Wal-Mart's
complicity in the exploitation of workers in third-world countries,
especially children, in order to provide inexpensive commodities for
American shoppers. The purpose of the demonstration was not to convince
customers to boycott the store but to convince Wal-Mart executives to
allow for inspections of their overseas plants so that working conditions can
be documented.

While a number of demonstrators lined Shaw Avenue in front of the
store, holding signs that read, "'Slave-Mart'-Wal-Mart," and "Kids in
School-Not in Factories," others gathered at the store entrance, greeting customers
and encouraging them to sign letters of protest addressed to David Glass,
CEO of Wal-Mart. Radha Raman and Romina Green, who handed leaflets to those
entering and leaving the store, said that although they did encounter
customers like the woman who announced, "I'm on my lunch hour-don't
bother me," many others were quite interested and sympathetic to the

One woman, Karen, who had come to the store to shop, took up a sign and
joined the others when she realized the purpose of the Season of
Conscience. "We've got to exercise political power through the pocket book," she
said. The demonstration concluded with a rally, where Randy Ghan of the
Central Labor Council, proclaimed that this campaign was about "a fair day's pay
for a fair day's work everywhere in the world." The Rev. Bob Baker of
College Community Congregational Church warned that if we don't continue this
world-wide struggle, "We'll all end up feeding on the bottom, while
those on top feed on us." John Veen, of Jobs With Justice, supported these
sentiments, reminding the crowd that 80% of jobs today pay less than a
living wage.

Local Wal-Mart officials were polite and cooperative with the
demonstrators, asking only that they not block the doors. A single
heckler, a young man with a shaved head, was heard yelling, "Wal-Mart Rules," as
he drove past. But the mood and tone of the day was best summed up by one
of the participants, Art Salazar of the United Steelworkers Local, who
answered emphatically, "Sam Walton is turning in his grave!"

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