News Release

* Wal-Mart Strikes * Nobel in Economics

NELSON LICHTENSTEIN [email]
Lichtenstein is author of The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business. He is also MacArthur Foundation chair in history at the University of California, Santa Barbara and director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy.

Lichtenstein recently wrote the piece “A New Era for Wal-Mart Workers?” which states: “During this week and the last, perhaps a couple of hundred of Wal-Mart workers have walked out of their stores in at least a dozen cities across America. They have formed picket lines, spoken to the press, and demonstrated that it is possible to put the name of the nation’s largest private-sector employer in the same sentence with the word ‘strike.’ …

“At Wal-Mart, the ‘associates’ want higher wages, sure, but the main source of their chronic humiliation and insecurity arises from store managers’ manipulation of and control over their hours of employment, shift preferences, and promotion possibilities. Indeed, it is just such ‘flexibility’ — which plays havoc with the daily work lives of Wal-Mart clerks and stockers — that has constituted a signal competitive advantage for the company when compared with many unionized grocery stores.”

RICHARD WOLFF [email]
Wolff is author most recently of the book Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism. He just wrote the piece “Irony and Absurdity: the Nobel Prize in Economics,” which states: “The two winners, Alvin E. Roth of Harvard University and Lloyd Shapley of UCLA, worked on the details of markets, on market ‘failures,’ and on how markets might be adjusted to fail less. This topic – for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that awards Nobel prizes – was the most important they could imagine or find in the entire realm of economics.

“We are in the fifth year of a global capitalist crisis. Markets — like the economists who think that markets are the object of economic science — failed to anticipate, understand, prevent, or overcome the crisis. Hundreds of millions of workers have been rendered unemployed, underemployed, or deprived of benefits and job security. Millions engage in general strikes and massive demonstrations targeting a capitalism that has failed them. Serious critics of the current global crisis have focused on aspects of modern capitalism (including but not limited to markets) that produced and sustain that crisis at enormous social cost.”