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“I work full-time for one of the richest companies in the world, and my kids get state health insurance and are on food stamps.--Sara Gilbert, striking WMT manager in Seattle. WMT's hatred of "anything union" is well-documented. Despite that.....

.....Ms. Gilbert has been joined by a large number of WMT employees doing the unthinkable. Protesting low wages, spiking health care premiums, and alleged retaliation from management, workers have started to walk off the job this week. On Wednesday, about a dozen workers in WMT’s distribution warehouses in So. California walked out, followed yesterday by 30 more from 6 stores in the Seattle area. The workers are part of a union-backed "coalition" called Making Change at Wal-Mart, who say this is the beginning of a wave of protests and strikes leading up to next week’s Black Friday. A thousand protests are planned in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Oklahoma, Milwaukee, LA, MN, and D.C.

Until now, the company has crushed attempts by employees to organize. So it’s unusual that Making Change at Wal-Mart has been able to organize these strikes—the first in the company’s history, they say. The first one occurred in LA in October and spread to 28 stores in 12 states. The strikers are undoubtedly aware of what happened to a Canadian WMT a few years ago. That one simply slammed its doors shut and said good-by to the rogue employees.

In 2013, Wal-Mart plans to whack its contributions to workers’ health-care premiums, which are expected to rise between 8-36%. Many employees will drop the plan. One worker in Lancaster, TX, making $8.90/hr. after 3 years, said he's going to have to forgo his plan.

Six Waltons are on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. Christy Walton, widow of the late John Walton, leads the clan at No. 6 with a net worth of $25.3 billion as of March. She is the richest woman in the world for the 7th year in a row, according to Forbes. Here are the other five:

No. 9: Jim Walton, $23.7 billion
No. 10: Alice Walton, $23.3 billion
No. 11: S. Robson Walton, oldest son of Sam Walton, $23.1 billion
No. 103: Ann Walton Kroenke, $3.9 billion
No. 139: Nancy Walton Laurie, $3.4 billion

= a grand total of $102.7 billion for these 6.

The Waltons' wealth totals more than the bottom 40% of American families combined. Besides the totals above for family members, here's a stat that boggles my mind: in 2011, the Waltons sat on their privileged 1% butts and enjoyed $2.5 billion in stock dividends. Just dividends on shares with a 2.5% yield. And that 2.5% dividend yield by itself made the Waltons $2.45B richer.

WMT is our largest private employer with 1.5 million workers. With all the family's glitzy numbers above in mind, I've got an employee-centered, PR-restoring gesture to suggest. It's simple (and I admit, very far-fetched and improbable.) Grant each of the 1.5 million workers a $500 lump sum to cover 2013's increased premium costs--probably more than enough, and let each employee carry over any extra to 2014. This would cost the Waltons $75M and would be paid out of their sit-and-collect stock dividends only. Employees would be on Cloud 99, and the Waltons?? .003% poorer.
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