THE MEDIA UNIVERSE has been dominated for months by election coverage. Meanwhile, out there in America, something has been happening that could, in the long run, be much more significant than any election. The Age of Walmart may be coming to the beginning of its end.
Cracks in the big blue hegemony have been showing up here and there for the past few years. The bribery scandal involving Walmart's Mexican subsidiary did some damage. So have the grassroots campaigns against new Walmart stores in Denver, Miami, New York, and even the college town of Athens, Ga. In Athens, the anti-Walmart banner has been hoisted by the local alt- rock community. Check out "After It's Gone," a music video attributed to Patterson Hood (front man of the legendary Drive-By Truckers) and the Downtown 13.
But all that was just foreshadowing. In October, here and there around the country, the Walmart workforce began to publicly rattle its chains. The movement started in September in the Walmart supply chain, first with strikes by seafood workers in Louisiana, then warehouse workers in Southern California and Elwood, Ill., all of whom went out because of unsafe or inhumane working conditions. Within a month Walmart "associates" had walked out of stores in Dallas, Southern California, the Bay Area, Sacramento, Seattle, Miami, the Washington, D.C. area, and Chicago. Two hundred of these striking workers demonstrated at corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., during the annual meeting of Walmart investors.