Why Walmart Matters to 21st Century Working-Class Struggle

In chapter three of Necessary Trouble, Sarah Jaffe covers the struggles of Walmart workers fighting for better pay, conditions and rights at work. This excerpt addresses the historical context for that struggle.

The image conjured by the term “working class” in the United States has been one of mostly white men toiling in a factory, wearing hard hats and those oft-evoked blue collars. Our labor policy was shaped around those men and the assumption that workers get health insurance from their jobs, have a pension on which to retire, and make a “family wage” that allows them to support a wife, who stays home to take care of the kids and the cooking and cleaning.

And yet with each year, that picture becomes less and less reflective of reality. The working class never was all white or all male, but now, more and more, the real story of the working class is the story of people like Colby Harris and Venanzi Luna, black and Latina, working in retail, restaurants, or another form of service work. The real story is not that women and people of color have moved into positions of power, but that more men are in “casualized” — that is, in temporary, part-time, or presumably “unskilled” service jobs…

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