One of the reasons that we sound the shofar during services on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) is, to quote the great Jewish jurist and philosopher Maimonides, to announce: “Awaken sleepers from your slumber … search your actions and repent and remember your Maker.” This Thursday hundreds of people will begin a process of trying to waken Wal-Mart from its slumbers—from its denial of the welfare and dignity of the hundreds of thousands of its workers who are paid poverty wages. We will also be trying to awaken the customers who go to Wal-Mart for cheap products, but either don’t know or don’t care that those products come at the expense of the Wal-Mart workers who sometimes cannot afford to buy those very products.
At this demonstration, almost 100 women and men—and I among them—will be committing an act of non-violent civil disobedience in order to rouse people and bring attention to the hidden violence of Wal-Mart’s practice. The Talmud teaches that one who withholds wages from a laborer is like one who kills a person. Poverty is a form of death. Impoverishment, especially in the form of full time work which does not pay enough to feed one’s family or keep shelter over one’s head, is a violent act. The violence, however, is hidden from most eyes. The violence, while well known to the men and women who are forced to take food stamps, or to work two jobs, or to skip meals, so that their children can eat, is hidden from consumers. The violence is hidden behind thousand dollar suits and celebrity MCs from the shareholders who congregate in Bentonville, Arkansas and see power point profit projections, but never see the indignities facing the workers or the hunger which generates those profits.
This coming Thursday, November 7 at 5PM at the WalMart Store in Chinatown we will say “Stop!” If you are in the Los Angeles area, please come to protest against the unjust treatment of workers, the radical income inequality in the United States, and for justice towards and the dignity of all workers.
For more information:
PBS’ story about WalMart: Store Wars—when Wal-Mart comes to town
Most Walmart Store Workers Didn’t Earn $25,000 Last Year
Child poverty rates soar in the home of Walmart Stores
I wish you well. It is unfortunate that more than 100 years ago, settlement workers such as Lilian Wald spoke of a “living wage,” one that would provide enough for a family to live on. Instead, we now still have a “minimum wage” that never seems to go up, while CEOs and other executives get stock options and bonuses that would feed thousands of workers and their families for a year. The shame on our society is monstrous.