Walmart's New War On The Poor.
Walmart's New War On The Working Poor.
Walmart has made a decision to declare war on the working poor in Phoenix, Arizona. This time it isn’t just those working for poverty wages and it’s not the same workers they cheat out of benefits at the tax payers expense. Those battles continue as Walmart makes record profits, pays little in taxes and often collects huge subsidies from the cities they occupy while forcing smaller businesses to close. This is a new war.
This time it is the day laborers who have frequented their parking lot and sidewalk for almost 8 years peacefully and with the rarest of any incident. These are also the same people who spend their hard earned money at the very Walmart after working all day.
According to Salvador Reza, who has been a key figure in the battle for day laborers rights, Mario Dias, a consultant with the Walmart corporation has made the decision to get rid of the day laborers who wait along the entrance to Walmart and Home Depot near Thomas and 36 Street in Phoenix. They have yet to announce the exact time or date. Reza's group, Comites del Barrio, will be holding a press conference Thursday, 11:00 AM, at the Walmart itself. (press release at end of article).
Reza states that “According to the consultant the decision has already been made. However, he doesn’t know when the trespassing will be implemented or when the police will be called to ticket, trespass and arrest day laborers who now are subject to SB1070 section 2b. The time warp Walmart is about to enter, will take us back to Black Friday 2007; open war against day laborers whose only crime is to work to feed their families. "
Could this lead to a boycott? Most likely. Reza already has more than one successful boycott under his belt. He also initiated the SB1070 boycott that caused republicans and the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce to beg legislators to stop passing anti-immigration laws because of the financial damage the boycott caused. That was in 2011 and it is well documented and a matter of legislative record. It also helped push the successful recall of former Senate President Russell Pearce, author of SB1070, who went from the most powerful man in Arizona to a disgraced failure. (Please note that I don't wish to over-emphasize Reza as the only person taking action during this time but there can be no doubt that his actions were calculated and successful. History should reflect that).
Some of you may remember the battle that took place in 2007 in front of Pruitts Furniture at 34th street and Thomas. Most agree that it was the start of the anti-Immigration extremism and the rise of Sheriff Arpaio’s racial profiling fame.
For those not familiar, here is a brief history:
Before Sheriff Arpaio started doing immigration sweeps and work-site raids, he was gaining recognition and popularity with hate groups and anti-immigrant extremists by harassing day laborers near the area of 32nd to 40th Street and Thomas road. Roger Sensing, Pruitt Furniture’s owner at the time, actually hired MCSO off-duty deputies to patrol his parking lot. This was in retaliation to the church across the street who were helping the homeless in the area during the hot summer months. But the owner of Pruitts Furniture didn’t seem to know the difference so the war against the homeless and undocumented day laborers was on. And arresting homeless people for vagrancy didn’t make news headlines like arresting “ Illegals” as both the media and law enforcement referred to them.
Arpaio centered his arrests and press releases around the undocumented as it made for better headlines. Local and national media sucked it up like piglets feeding off the swine's teets. Rarely would they even try to get to the complexity or legality of the situation.
Arpaio went far beyond off-duty guard work protecting Pruitt’s small parking lot and started cruising the neighborhood harassing and arresting those they decided might be undocumented. Those who got up before the sun rises to seek work at the Home Depots were quickly targeted and harassed. Crime was at its lowest in years before Arpaio ever decided to racailly profile in the area. Statistics consistently show areas where there are more immigrants generally have significantly lower crime rates. But Arpaio understood that he tapped into the fear mongering and hatred towards immigrants in a State where voter turn-out is low except for frightened senior citizens and racists who always vote. Like Donald Trump, Arpaio became more popular than ever with some polls showing him at 70% popularity. (Remember-this was 2007. In 2012, Arpaio won re-election by less than 51% of the vote).
As a result of Arpaio’s actions and Pruitt’s hiring him, a Boycott of Pruitts Furniture and a weekly protests in front of the store began. Most in the media thought the boycott would not be successful. They were wrong.
The boycott almost caused Pruitts to close. A meeting was called with Pruitt’s, the City of Phoenix and Salvadore Reza’s group. Pruitt’s Furniture fired Arpaio’s off-duty deputies and the boycott was lifted.
While the protests were held only on saturdays for a few hours, crowds of racists, neo-Nazis, minutemen and rightwing opportunists gathered to counter-protest and support Arpaio’s racial profiling. Arpaio would often show up for the media and his rabid fan base (much larger back then). Even those just passing by were subjected to the racism and hatred from Arpaio's supporters if they had dark skin. I recall a mother walking home with her baby be stopped and yelled at. "Anchor Baby" they would yell, telling her to "get the hell out of my country." It was a frightening street on a saturday morning for a Mexican to have to walk down.
The hatred I witnessed during the months of those protests had a profound effect on me. Prior to that time, immigration and human rights weren't something a young white professional like myself thought about. After witnessing the hatred at those protests, my life and my ambitions changed and I've never regretted those changes for one minute.
Those supporting the day laborers started small in numbers and remained extremely peaceful despite the threats and occasional violence from the anti-immigrant crowd. There was even some frustration with some of the supporters who wanted to be more confrontational against the hate groups. But Reza had a plan and he stuck to it. “We’ve got children here. We’ve got people who don’t have papers and violence will only lead to them getting arrested,” he often told me at the time.
From a business standpoint, it made sense for Pruitt’s to surrender. Both Pruitt’s and Walmart at 3425 East Thomas depend on latino shoppers to keep their doors open. (Pruitts never had a day laborer “problem” as there was a Home Depot on 32 Street and one on 36th Street and not much of a need to hang out in front of a furniture store anyway). It's important to remember that the agreement was decided with Pruitts spokespersons, Reza’s team and the city of Phoenix. Arpaio wasn’t invited to the negotiations and retaliated by sending his extremest supporters to harass day laborers wherever they could find them, usually around the area of 25th Street and Bell Road and at the Walmart parking lot on 36th Street and Thomas next to a Home Depot.
Arpaio also started his infamous immigration sweeps where minority neighborhoods were terrorized by his deputies. Arpaio has since been forced to stop the sweeps thanks Federal Judge G. Murray Snow’s rulings in the Melendraz V Arpaio case where Arpaio was found guilty of racial profiling. But SB 1070 is now in effect in Arizona and despite it being weakened in court, it will allow Phoenix PD to do what Arpaio was doing in 2007 through 2011 or afterwards as he now faces contempt charges for disobeying the order. With the city of Phoenix adding hundreds of police, logic tells us they are going to need something to do. While the challenges to SB1070 have not successfully stopped the bill, the supreme court did rule that it is generally NOT a crime to be in this country without documentation. But all a cop needs to deport someone is a loitering charge, trespassing, jay-walking. At that point, SB1070 is in full effect.
Below is the press release. Chris Newman, Attorney for will be present to speak. Mr. Newman represents the National Day Labor Organizing Network.
Comites del Barrio Press Release
Contact: Salvador Reza, 602 446-9928, email@example.com
Date: Thursday, October 22, 11:00 AM
Location: Walmart, 38th Street and Thomas.
Eight years ago we confronted a coalition of business interests associated with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and white supremacist groups. They were intent on cleaning Phoenix of all Macehualli Day Laborers. These laborers only crime was to wait for work outside of Home Depots and other corners. Also, eight years ago the Macehualli Day Laborers started a campaign to confront Sheriff Joe; this campaign is about to complete eight years on Black Friday, the biggest sales day of the year.
Today Sheriff Joe sits before a federal judge facing possible criminal charges. Eight years ago the campaign against Sheriff Joe and the business coalition associated with him had its first victory. On Christmas 2007, after losing close to a million dollars, the business coalition spearheaded by Pruitt’s Furniture Store raised a white flag and asked Sheriff Joe to leave. After 2007 Arpaio continued with his destructive campaign, but in the area of 36th and Thomas, Walmart reached an accommodation with the Day Laborers allowing them to wait along a strip at the entrance of Walmart, thus calming the tension until now.
The eight year calm seems about to break. According to Mario Dias, a consultant Walmart hired to resolve the situation, the corporation has made the decision to get rid of the day laborers who wait along the entrance to Walmart and Home Depot. According to the consultant the decision has already been made. However, he doesn’t know when the trespassing will be implemented or when the police will be called to ticket, trespass and arrest day laborers who now are subject to SB1070 section 2b. The time warp Walmart is about to enter, will take us back to Black Friday 2007; open war against day laborers whose only crime is to work to feed their families.
However, if we have learned anything in the last years of struggle against racism, it is that racism persists until it is affected by economic losses. As we explained to Walmart regional representatives, “the corporation has the right to trespass laborers from their property but consumers have the right to choose where to spend their money.”
Until today, day laborers still wait for work the same way they have done for 8 years at the entrance of Walmart on 36th and Thomas. We are asking our community to be vigilant. If Walmart becomes the Grinch that stole Christmas, then we will not buy from Walmart They will also have a grim Xmas. We know our communities will look for alternative shopping places to the Walmart on 38th and Thomas.
Macehualli Day Laborers also ask the City of Phoenix not to let itself be used as a tool to resolve an invented crisis by corporate maneuvers. Corporations profit from our community but do not feel the obligation to be a good and responsible neighbor. What we can't understand is the decision by Walmart to change their policy after 8 years of being a good neighbor. The ball is in their court. We ask Walmart to think hard about their decision before they throw this city into the horrible racist xenophobia from which Arizona has not yet recovered.