My idea of shopping has nothing to do with sharp elbows, crowds, or even bargains. The kind of shopping I like is when I find something truly unique, really special and creative or innovative, at a small shop or family business. Best for me if it’s made in America, and of high quality craftsmanship, to me, this is real value — and I’ll buy that, I’ll reward that.
That kind of shopping is increasingly hard to do.
As I watched CNN this morning I was a bit amazed by all the “news” around the concept of Black Friday. Man-on-the-spot interviews at shopping malls, traffic reports from WalMart, etc. I guess it is the story of the day, but how much can you make of it, what is there to say? Lots of host and hostess happy talk, mercy, it’s to the point of gagging. The harder news, like the protests at Walmart in Ontario, Louisiana, got a lot less air time.
Of course, the protests are the bigger story. And it’s classic it’s not getting much air time because, it’s a complicated story, and that is harder to report. This rare worker protest in these days of anti-unionism is only part of what makes this story interesting. It’s also a story about the shrinkage of the middle class, the loss of American manufacturing and jobs in the economy, corporate welfare, and education. That’s all.
The workers beef with Walmart has to do with the generally low pay. I get the point, those are mostly poor jobs. I always thought that the Walmart type job was the “second job” in a given family. What I’m learning is that if it’s only you, or your partner also works at Walmart, well, you can’t live on a pay check(s) from a Walmart job. Tax payers support those jobs with food stamps and other forms of assistance. I’m thinking of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s comments having to do with “nobody does it on their own” and that would truly be the case with Walmart. We’re all supporting Walmart’s success with our tax dollars whether we buy there or not.
My real point to this meandering discussion is about the need for American’s to be making things (and not just buying things.) We need to be making high value add products, and lots more of them. And if we’re not getting the education we need to do so, we need to change that. Shop class needs to return in a big way.
One reason so many families rely on crap jobs to get by is there are simply not enough good jobs. The Walmart job can’t be the supplementary job in a community that doesn’t have a major manufacturer making something of real value. Without making things that demand top dollar, workers can’t expect to make any real money. While I have much sympathy for the protestors in Louisiana, I don’t have much hope for their getting better pay.
Until US citizens stop rewarding cut-rate retailers, politicians who support corporate welfare, corporations that move good jobs overseas, there won’t be justice. Those workers have no leverage because there will always be someone desperate enough to cross a picket line. Especially in an economy that doesn’t make things, where there aren’t many decent jobs, where there are no alternatives.
So, maybe the thing to do on Black Friday is to go back to old Main Street and support a small business. Or, if you do shop at the mall, support those retailers who stock American made products (good luck finding any). And, if you have a good day shopping, why not write a letter to your congressman or senator and ask them to stop rewarding offshoring, and start rewarding reshoring and start-ups. If we have to support corporate welfare, why not support a local manufacturer? Or a local entrepreneur trying to make something?