China: Big and Scary – Like Sasquatch

chinese-flag.jpg

I got an e-mail a while back from some bulk mailing group that I never asked to be a part of scaring me that China was hell-bent on destroying America and that their tool for doing so was none other than WalMart. I tried to contain my fear long enough to go to their website (http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/) and make myself an informed citizen. On the website is a wealth of information and testimonials about the anti-union harsh working conditions of WalMarts across the U.S., information about WalMart’s destruction of communities, and generally about how WalMart just sucks. But none of this really feared me into action. Where was the Shock and Awe? Where were the terrorists out to get me? But upon closer inspection – there they were! The video clip that their organization has aired on T.V. and promotes on their website has two flags blowing in the background. Both have stars and lots of red, but only one of them is American! As if foreigners have not insulted us enough by having a flag other than ours they also have jobs! No, it’s true – people in China, India, and Mexico are employed – and not every American makes 20 times as much as them in an hour! Will the injustice never end?! The video implies that China is on the verge of taking over America and Walmart is the vehicle they will use to do it. “But how are they doing this and what can I do to help (stop it, that is)” you obediently ask. The answer is simple. So simple. They are stealing American jobs! Like some kind of bizarro tooth fairies they sneak into our good American houses at night, pull our employment off our mantles and from under our pillows, and run back to China and other foreign places with them. Now I was really scared. 9-11 scared.

By being employed the Chinese workers obviously force Americans to be unemployed. And by being paid far less than even American WalMart workers they were obviously getting rich enough to take over the world! Since WalMart gives their Chinese employees so much less – imagine what American WalMart employees could do with all their loot, if only they were more Chinese about it. According to the website the average worker on the floor at WalMart makes about $8.23. The website correctly explains over and over how it is nearly impossible to survive on this little pay. I think most Chinese workers employed in WalMart’s factories make less than 1/10 this much an hour. But somehow they not only survive but they have enough left over – according to the website – to buy out WalMart (anytime they choose) and next? America! Yes, I am scared – but I can’t help but wonder – how can they stretch a buck so far? And why can’t we do that? Do we need to shop at WalMart to save money the way they do? Or should we be involved in less trillion dollar wars of aggression over oil and just drive less? (I am assuming the war will have cost trillions of dollars before anyone decides to pull us out.) Or are they using some kind of magic that makes poverty turn into wealth? Like all those welfare moms that are secretly queens? Some kind of ancient Chinese magic or socialist voodoo? Or, wait, here’s another possiblity that the website forgot to mention. What if WalMart sucks worse than they imagined? What if they suck for their Chinese employees as much as for their American employees? What if China isn’t trying to take over the world and oppress us but WalMart is? Suddenly things started making a lot more sense. WalMart screws over factory workers in China, then they screw over the store employees here, then the consumer gets a really good deal on an inferior product while watching all the mom and pop stores and local businesses evaporate. Maybe WalMart is the common thread here. Maybe the sinister Chinese were not stealing American jobs – maybe WalMart was giving them away. Maybe the company with an absolute lack of ethics here also has an absolute lack of ethics across the ocean. That was so simple it was true. But then I began to wonder why someone with all the money and resources to put up this sharp and stylish website couldn’t figure out what was clear to a high school drop-out surfing the web for mac and cheese recipes. Then, again, it occurred to me, maybe they didn’t see how twisted WalMart is because they didn’t really want to. Maybe they kind of like WalMart, maybe they kind of hate the Chinese, so maybe that makes it a lot easier to blame the victim. Sort of like when we say welfare mothers live like queens while poor Kenneth Lay’s millionaire wife has to live like a pauper. Maybe it is just racism. Our country has always had a very easy time hating Asians. And maybe it also has to do with embarrassment.

After I took a second look at the website I discovered that this “grassroots” campaign was funded and run by UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers union). The “United” at the beginning of their name is somewhat ironic as, in recent years, they joined the “Change to Win” faction that split off from the AFL-CIO. There is even more irony in “Change to Win” leader’s explanations at the time of the split that Sweeney and the AFL-CIO were too political. That the focus needed to be on taking care of business here and now (I am paraphrasing but that was clearly the sentiment). It seems to me that misdirecting anger at WalMart’s barely legal abuse of workers to China is political and is not focusing on the needs of workers here and now. To be caught in such hypocrisy must me embarrassing – but not as embarrassing as the arrogant attitude of those leading the charge away from the AFL-CIO split who claimed the separations would lead to more money, more union membership, and more unions. How red their faces must be now (pardon the pun) that while they still struggle to unionize service industries in the U.S. every WalMart in China is unionized. The China hating elements in the Unions here cannot address this issue because they have always claimed that there are no unions in China. How then can they explain even WalMart being unioned there – but not here? I expect that when they claimed Chinese workers were not unionized they meant they were not members of a legitimate AFL-CIO union. But that is very hard to say now since the UFCW can no longer claim to be a legitimate AFL-CIO union.

In the midst of all this hypocrisy and embarrassment the only thing to do is preach hatred for what is different, promote xenophobia and racism, and hope that the lynch-mob frenzy will keep anyone from noticing your own short-comings and faulty logic.

(I left a message stating most of the above, without vulgarity or hate speech, on one of their open democratic forums – it was quickly deleted.)

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Posted on July 22, 2007, in Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This is all the absolute truth and no one is talking about it. As a masters student studying labor policy, I can assure anyone who reads this post that American unions are totally inept at organizing tatics and overrun with shortsighted people who cannot or will not pursue companies like Wal-Mart because they are beholden to the same politicians who have outsourced an entire way of life that will ensure the longevity of our culture in the name of profit.

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