There's Safety in a Union


Well that didn't take long. Just a few days after the death of a Wal-Mart employee in Long Island, following a stampede of psychotic "Black Friday" shoppers, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, longtime nemesis of the behemoth from Bentonville, was already exploiting the tragedy. CNN has details:

The union is calling for an investigation "by all levels of government" to ensure justice for Damour's family and make sure that such an incident never happens at Wal-Mart again.

"If the safety of their customers and workers was a top priority, then this never would have happened," said Patrick Purcell, a projects director for the local UFCW. "Wal-Mart must step up to the plate and ensure that all those injured, as well as the family of the deceased, be financially compensated for their injuries and their losses. Their words are weak."

The UFCW has long been a harsh critic of Wal-Mart's, arguing that the world's largest retailer offers low wages and poor health care for its workers and pushes competitors and suppliers to do the same or go out of business.

It is true, in its way. Perhaps the UFCW could argue that had the Long Island Wal-Mart been a union shop, wages would be much higher, as would be the price of the products on its shelves—thus potentially preventing the crush of bargain hunters.

In other Wal-Mart stampede news, the New York Times refers to the death in Long Island as a "shopping Guernica," comparing the trampling death to a Nazi bombing raid during the Spanish Civil War. And according to the Times, it was all rather predictable anyway, because big business like Wal-Mart are controlling our minds and making us kill for plasma televisions:

It was a tragedy, yet it did not feel like an accident. All those people were there, lined up in the cold and darkness, because of sophisticated marketing forces that have produced this day now called Black Friday. They were engaging in early-morning shopping as contact sport. American business has long excelled at creating a sense of shortage amid abundance, an anxiety that one must act now or miss out.

I wrote about the history of anti-big box hysteria here.