Talking Turkey – Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and that means it is time for the Second Annual Black Friday at Walmart, brought to you by the workers organized as Our Walmart. At last count, Walmart in the last year has fired over 60 workers who have been involved in strikes and protests over their pitifully low wages and erratic schedules. Despite this wave of retaliation, membership in Our Walmart has increased over the last year. That is a testament to the brave workers who are leading this protracted and difficult fight.

In this same year, Walmart, Gap and other clothing retailers, have continued to range the globe searching for cheap labor, leaving death and destruction in their wake. In Bangladesh, there was yet another fire last month in a garment factory, this one at the Aswad factory in Gazipur, killing ten people and injuring dozens of the 170 workers who were inside when the fire started. The Aswad fire follows the fire that killed over 1100 workers at Rana Plaza in April, and the fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in November 2012 that killed over 100 workers.


Bangladesh has been rocked with strikes and protests involving thousands of workers, shutting down hundreds of factories and braving severe police repression. But this gets barely a peep in the mainstream media. Racism and national chauvinism run deep here in the “land of the free.”

And in late October, over 80 workers walked off their jobs at a Walmart in Hialeah, Florida, a protest about getting too few hours. These workers, overwhelmingly Latino, struck for a day and then went back to work with their heads held high. The result? Everybody got scheduled for 40 hours the next week, and so far no retaliation.

So, have your fill on Thanksgiving, and then get your butt to one of the Black Friday events…

By the way, the Business Times reports that Marissa Mayer, who serves on the Board of Directors of Walmart, runs Yahoo and owns a condo at the Four Seasons on Market Street, just bought a Palo Alto funeral home for what was described as a “stiff price.” Who knows what is in her twisted mind. Truth really is stranger than fiction…

“Goodbye Bay Bridge. Hello Ugly Pole” – I have been wondering if I am the only one who thinks the new Willie L. Brown Bay Bridge looks like someone giving us the finger. But then I found “Save Me, San Francisco: The new Bay Bridge is ugly,” and now I don’t feel so all alone. My favorite comment on this site: “The water is pretty though!” I also found a tweet that summed it up this way: “Goodbye Bay Bridge. Hello Ugly Pole.” My grandfather was Polish, so I do have some reservations here…

The media has grown very silent about those bad bolts, suspect concrete and Chinese steel used to build this white elephant. Not to mention the billions of extra dollars it cost to reconfigure the bridge for this showy monstrosity, and the increased tolls we are paying for it.

If the new bridge wasn’t so ugly and expensive, I would have jumped on the bandwagon to name it the Emperor Norton Bay Bridge… I enjoyed this post from another website: “Hmm, I wonder how many Walmarts it leads to.” But I suppose that is a bit San Francisco-centric…

Across the Bay – Oakland airport food concession workers held another action on Halloween. The unity between the non-union fast food workers there and the unionized UNITE HERE Local 2850 workers is what keeps this fight going.

Workers, many in ghost and goblin getup, picketed the airport for a time, demanding decent union contracts for all. There was then a short rally. One of the stars is Hakima Arhab, who was fired by the non-union Subway at the airport. After a year off the job, Subway was forced to put her back to work, and give her full backpay. I like that.

But the bosses never give it a rest. HMS Host, which does have a contract with the union, albeit an expired one, fired a bartender a couple of weeks ago. He just happened to be a leading rank-and-file organizer. The excuse was some baloney from a spotter. We all know about spotters, who get their pieces of silver by entrapping and finking on workers.

So, after the rally, we trooped off to HMS Host headquarters at the airport, passing a “Restricted Area” sign on the way, and gave a piece of our mind to the Food and Beverage Director. He didn’t look too happy. Nobody actually said “Trick or Treat,” but then we weren’t looking for candy. Was that Joe Hill’s ghost I saw? Then we went marching back through the airport, chanting “We’ll Be Back!” And, indeed, we will.

Tripping down the runway – For those of you considering flying this holiday period, here is a joke for you, courtesy of Union Communication Services

Taxing down the tarmac, the jetliner abruptly stopped, turned around and returned to the gate. After an hour-long wait, it finally took off again. A concerned passenger asked the flight attendant, “What was the problem?”

“The pilot was bothered by a noise he heard in the engine," explained the flight attendant. “It took the company a while to find a new pilot.”

Copyright © 2013 by Marc Norton

Marc Norton takes the credit and the blame for any opinions expressed in this article. Marc has been a member of San Francisco's hotel and restaurant workers union, UNITE HERE Local 2, since 1976. He is also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). His website is www.MarcNorton.us.