Tag Archives: Walmart

Asimov, Vonnegut, & Wendy’s: I For One Welcome Our Robot Overlords

Last week saw an announcement from fast food chain Wendy’s that they’d be rolling out some 6,000 “self-service kiosks” in their restaurants. This follows rulings in California and New York that would gradually raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.00 an hour, and as you might imagine the connection has not been lost on people.

Of course, when I say “people”, I mean the ranks of bougie suburbanites who have been gleefully cackling over Wendy’s decision. It is these folks who I’d like to address directly today.

<Ahem>

****. You.

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Seriously, what kind of demented, spiteful people are you?

After decades of stagnant wages and crippling poverty. After years of broken promises and betrayals by their supposed liberal representatives. After months and months of fighting and campaigning finally the poor have a victory.

And your response to Wendy’s giving their jobs to robots is “Serves ’em right?”

Did I say **** you yet?

Well, **** you.

You guys sound like mustache-twirling caricatures from some turn-of-the-century political cartoon.

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“Oh I say, my dear Montressor- that’ll show those filthy proles! Now let us adjourn to the smoking room for cigars and brandy!”

Livable wages?

What are they going to ask for next? An eight-hour work day? Paid lunches and sick leave?

Only for all your cantankerous whinging, you’re probably not some festering slumlord or monocled oil-tycoon. So why are you bent out of shape? Continue reading

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When Patriots Inflate

Surprise!  There’s not going to be a lot of football in this post.  But I’ll work it in where I can.

I grew up within a thirty minute drive of one of the most deployed military bases in the U.S., so it’s safe to say that I’ve been exposed to just about every brand of hyper-patriotism in existence.  Every house on every street sported an American flag, and Memorial Day was actually more than just “Giant BBQ Day,” because everyone knew/loved somebody who was literally putting their life on the line for their country.  Because of this, there’s almost a sense of urgency to the way people there go about loving their country.  Basically, your friends and family may die for the USA at any point, so you need to love your country to pieces, because otherwise questions about the necessity of their sacrifice will eat you alive from the inside.

And you know what?  I get it.  I really do.  I know people who’ve lost parents, siblings, and spouses in the military.  It’s heartbreaking.  However, emotions only ever get in the way of rationality, and when you take all of that away, I can only reasonably come to the conclusion that patriotism–or at least, the inflated emphasis on it that I encounter daily–is straight up dumb.  I really could go on and on about this, but for now, I’ll sum up my problems with patriotism in a few points.

1. It’s Practically Nationalism.

In most cases I’ve encountered, the two are inseparable.  There’s a reason why synonyms of nationalism include both “flag-waving” and “jingoism.”  Sure, you can argue that the two are distinct; patriotism, at its core, is devoted love of your country, and doesn’t necessarily have to lead to all of the negative “us vs. them” bulls**t we so often see.  I’m not about to go the route of the “slippery slope” argument, but seriously, that’s a fine line to tread.

Most American patriots I know will throw around phrases like “the greatest country on earth” or “the city on a hill.”  It’s sickening, but we put up with it because, in our case, there either aren’t any major negative consequences (yet) or they’re so far removed from us as to be a non-issue (unless you happen to live in a country where we currently have boots on the ground).  It could be worse.  It could be ethnic nationalism, or religious nationalism. The fact is, inflated patriotism generates a pretty prime climate for that sort of nonsense to proliferate.  This would be forgivable if it actually did us any good otherwise, but… Continue reading

Shame Day: Treatment of the Poor

I work with a population the vast majority of whom live below the poverty line in one of tougher zip codes this side of the Rockies. I won’t say it’s the least stressful job I’ve had, but for all sweat shed and sleep lost, if nothing else you get an up close look at a part of life most people don’t want to even acknowledge exists.

Let’s talk about the poor of America, and how you’ve got a lousy attitude about them.

Now you might be thinking “Geez, stop the presses, a Commie is ranting about the treatment of the poor.”

Touché. Continue reading

“The Sincerity Wars” or “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong”

Not too long ago, Evan did a Shame Day about 4chan’s semi-joking attempt to wreck a Taylor Swift radio contest by getting some random 39-year-old voted rated as Swifts “biggest fan”. The original post declaring 4Chan’s intentions stated that “Charles Z.” was only in it for a chance to “sniff Swift’s hair” (I can’t speculate on whether or not that’s meant to be a joke) and that it was a chance to crush the dreams of thousands of “whiny teeny boppers.” The campaign was overwhelmingly successful. Charles Z. shot to the first place with a mile-wide margin and the radio station wound up cancelling the whole event.

In spite of Evan’s comments that this was generally a lousy move and a tacit endorsement of sexual harassment, I’m going to have to disagree with him. Firstly, I’m not taking the whole “hair-sniffing” thing as being all that serious, and secondly, I don’t think this really had much of anything to do with Charles Z. or even Taylor Swift for that matter.

It was about sincerity. Continue reading

Shame Day: Black Friday

I almost don’t feel like I should have to explain this post. Look at that image on the right, look at that wave of flesh and hunger, which I can only compare to the somewhat recently released World War Z trailer. They move like an organism, a living being that flows into each store, ravenously grabbing at whatever they can.

For the non-Americans among you, Black Friday is the day after American Thanksgiving, which sets off the Christmas shopping season. Last year at this time a few pretty significant events happened, none of which I can say are positive.

The first recorded death from the event happened in 2008, when an employee, once again at Walmart, was literally trampled to death by a wave of shoppers. The stampede could not be halted when other employees tried to help their coworker, and even police who arrived at the scene were shoved and pushed back.

Honestly, I don’t even know what else to say.

Every year the sale begins earlier and earlier, and for a while it was normal for shops to open at 6:00 am. Last year many retailers opened at midnight for the first time. Now, on Black Friday 2012, Walmart [again] and several other superstores have announced that they will be opening their stores at 8:00 pm Thanksgiving Day. This has prompted a very understandable call for a walkout among workers.

If the trend continues this image won’t even make sense anymore.

As a Canadian I’ve celebrated American Thanksgiving only once. It was a time that I spent with a loving family, where copious amounts of food was served and the itis was experienced by many. It was a time of relaxation and enjoying each other’s company, not camping outside superstores in the freezing cold or trampling the meek and lowly [see: Walmart employees] underneath our feet.

All I can say is Happy Thanksgiving, Americans. If you care about at least one retailer [Target] respecting a national holiday, you can sign a petition here. Enjoy your turkey.

Evan and Gordon Talk: Affirmative Action

EVAN: So last week I asked people on Facebook what they wanted us to talk about, and the answer that got the most votes was affirmative action. This is a pretty broad topic, but thinking about it in the past couple of days I have at least a few possible directions to go with it. But before we do that, a definition-

GORDON: Well, that eternal fount of knowledge that is Wikipedia sets affirmative action down as:

“policies that take factors including ‘race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin’ into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group ‘in areas of employment, education, and business’, usually justified as countering the effects of a history of discrimination.”

Though of course, we’re probably more familiar with it in regards to racial or gender quotas for certain businesses.

EVAN: Right, like hiring a minority to make some sort of company quota-

GORDON: Ironically, despite the outcry against this particular aspect of affirmative action, it isn’t actually legal in the US to set quotas for any race.

EVAN: Which I did not know. But it happens, of course.

GORDON: That it does. That quota being typically “100% white.”

EVAN: I meant more along the lines of the executive minority training program featured in Season 6 of The Office.

GORDON: That too. “Token” minority hiring.

EVAN: And Gabe’s childish delight at pulling in someone who wasn’t black [Kelly], like all of the other entries were.

GORDON: It’s been a while since I’ve seen it.

EVAN: It’s all good.

GORDON: Let’s get right down to it here- affirmative action is still a contentious practice, but let’s face it, now more than ever it’s demonstrative of inherent bias in the system.

EVAN: As someone who doesn’t keep up with the news as often as he should, the most recent event I can recall that featured this was the rioting that was happening in Paris.

GORDON: Go on…

EVAN: Oh man, I was really hoping you’d remember. But it was a minority group rioting, and the way they solved it all was that employers had to hire people from this group, and pay them regardless of how well/hard they worked.

GORDON: Ergh- it’s France. These are the same people who nearly elected a neo-Nazi to be prime minister, and and have massive racial bigotry issues- just look at their expulsion of the Roma.

I’d hesitate before using them as an example- let’s bring the issue a little closer to home. Take America, for example.

EVAN: Well, your home.

GORDON: We have a workforce completely and utter disproportionate to the population. Even as the white population diminishes, the vast majority of administrative jobs are held by white males.

It’s like what I brought up in my article on TLC.

EVAN: Misrepresentation of an entire population, yeah?

GORDON: Absolutely.

EVAN: So that’s America, but where does affirmative action come into it, are you saying it’s needed?

GORDON: I’m saying that it isn’t working. If affirmative action was meant to end hiring and promotional discrimination on the basis of race and gender, it’s utterly failed, and the proof of that is everywhere around us.

EVAN: Well, you know more about the States than I do, especially with you saying that it’s illegal. Are there any affirmative action movements than you can bring up at all?

GORDON: The only major issue I can recall in the past couple years was a lawsuit brought against Walmart.

EVAN: Go on.

GORDON: Back in 2007, a gender discrimination lawsuit (Walmart v. Dukes) was filed, with a massive number of women citing that despite nearly two-thirds of Walmart employees being women, only a third of management was female- and that’s to say nothing of other charges against Walmart’s routine exploitation of its female employees.

A court (tragically) ruled that the various individuals suing didn’t have quite enough in common to constitute being a “class”, so the case was more or less thrown out.

EVAN: Their sharing a gender not withstanding?

GORDON: Welcome to America.

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EVAN: Moving on to something I may know a little more about, affirmative action is a term that comes up quite a lot in regards to Native Americans, or what we in Canada refer to as “First Nations.”

GORDON: Shoot-

EVAN: There’re reservations, of course, land that belongs [is given] to said people. I’ve heard many times friends saying that they were 1/16 such and such, and would be able to “claim land.” Also the fact that gambling is legal on such properties, which I still don’t fully understand.

GORDON: The issue of native rights is an entirely different topic- something we oughta cover, but not quite in this post.

EVAN: I’m just saying that I think it ties directly into what we’re discussing. This is all stuff that’s “usually justified as countering the effects of a history of discrimination.”

GORDON: Granted. One could make an argument for lumping together reparations and affirmative action, but affirmative action is really strictly defined as pertaining to admissions- into either a university or the workplace.

How IS that in Canada, anyways? You got management proportionate to your population makeup?

EVAN: I am not sure. Let me check.

Well, I can confidently say that our minority population is 16%, though this excludes First Nations. Taking them into account, they add 4%, making a solid 20% of our population being nonwhite.

GORDON: Okay. So in your experience, is one in five Canadian manages/execs/bosses/administrators/etc. from a minority group?

EVAN: I’d say that in Toronto, at least, you’re as likely to see a white person as a non-white person. Depending on the neighborhood, you may find it difficult to see more than a handful of Caucasians.

GORDON: But in management…

EVAN: Right. I’m not exactly in a lot of offices… So I don’t know if I can comment on that.

GORDON: Gun to your head…

EVAN: I want to say 1/5 are probably minorities. Which matches up with the statistics I mentioned.

GORDON: Ah, good.

I love how useful this GIF is...

EVAN: I’m a little perturbed that you put a gun to my head in this post.

GORDON: Heh…

Before any of the readers jump down my throat, I know am I’m looking at the problem from a white-liberal viewpoint. Simple fact of the matter is, college is expensive (don’t I know it… **** you Evan, and your ridiculously great government benefits), and the small, wealthy majority in US is (overwhelmingly) white. Someone might make an argument for qualifications being required over race, but that’s exactly where affirmative action is SUPPOSED to come in.

It’s meant to help even the playing field, but it just doesn’t- again, look around.

EVAN: Qualifications required over race and affirmative action. Could you explain that further?

GORDON: Imagine you’re an employer. And imagine this we’re not living some depression-era-hellscape where you’re asking that an entry level employee have five to ten years of experience.

EVAN: . . . I’m listening. This is a dreamworld you’re painting.

GORDON: You have to fill a position, and there are two candidates- a white guy with a college degree, and a black guy without one (again, college is ****ing expensive). Who do you give the job to?

EVAN: The qualified one. The white guy.

GORDON: And imagine you need this position filled again the next year. And the next and the next, and you keep getting the same basic candidates. Who do you pick?

EVAN: Obviously whoever can do the job better. But where is affirmative action, like you said, supposed to come in?

GORDON: The people with jobs get money, the people with money send their kids to college, and so on. Affirmative action is meant to make sure that people aren’t discriminated against on the basis of their race, so that two equally qualified people stand an equal chance of getting in.

It’s like trying to back-paddle in the middle of a maelstrom.

EVAN: Ah, I see what you’re getting at. But what about minority scholarships?

GORDON: Even there, there’s an issue. Poor schools don’t get good funding, they tend to produce students who aren’t as prepared as their wealthier peers, and even bright ones who would otherwise school their peers wind up doing worse on tests. Unless you’re exceptionally gifted…

Again, it’s trying to apply a band-aid to an open wound.

EVAN: One more simile, for the road. Our time’s just about wrapped up.

GORDON: It all boils down to this- there is a need for equity and equality in the workplace- a desperate need. But affirmative action is like using a toothpick to fight dragons [emphasis added]- its the wrong tool of the job, and even if it was appropriate for the situation, it’s still not very effective…

EVAN: Join us next week, where hopefully I know more about what we’re talking about, when we discuss-

An American Invasion

Attending college in the States means that I’ve missed a lot of goings-on in Canada. Apparently Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is a terrible mayor. I did not know this. On May 1st came to another realization, but one that filled me with far more trepidation than a mayor who has given up on his diet.

Driving through an old neighbourhood, my family and I saw that Canadian superstore Zellers was having a 50-80% off liquidation sale. A well-known chain in the country, the chain is a subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). After trying on a few jeans my brother asked the woman in charge of the change room what was happening, and she told us that this branch was becoming a Target.

Fastforward to me doing research on Wikipedia, and it turns out that in January of last year the Target Corporation purchased lease agreements for 220 Zellers stores for almost 2 billion dollars. The end result was 189 stores for the company, and of these 39 were resold to Walmart Canada. I was shocked by the idea of a prominent Canadian chain being bought out by an American company, but it doesn’t stop there.

The HBC is currently owned ( as of 2008) by New York-based company NRDC Equity Partners. This is a company that has its roots in the Canadian fur trade, the foundation of this country. Grade school children all over Canada learn from a very early age in history classes that it was the fur trade that brought people to this country, and that The Bay is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world.

What bothers me is the knowledge that this country faces a sort of invasion coming from south of the 49th parallel. It’s no mystery that American companies have more money and sway than those in Canada, but it’s terrifying that they’re establishing themselves so firmly here. Just walking around in the heart of downtown yesterday and I saw a Panera Bread, yet another company that has spread into the north within the past five years.

Canada isn’t a world power in terms of military, but our impact on popular culture has been steadily increasing. I may be blowing this whole thing out of proportion, but I just don’t see a world that takes us seriously when all of our businesses are run by America.