Rush’s decision to license “Working Man” to a company that has declared war on American workers is one of the biggest betrayals of trust in Rock history.
Yesterday I offered up a brief post wondering what the folks at Walmart were thinking when they chose to use Rush’s iconic “Working Man” as the soundtrack for their ad on investing more money in American manufacturers. Rush, in case you don’t know them, is Canadian, and that struck me as a tad … ironic. Maybe for a follow-up they can do something with Alanis Morissette. Or a Chinese band, if they want to be especially heavy-handed.
Today it’s time to ask WTF Rush was thinking when it decided to sell out to one of the most egregiously anti-working man corporations on the planet.
First off, let’s get some perspective on the claim. The ad says that in the next 10 years they’re “pledging $250 billion to products purchased from American factories.” That’s a lot of money. However, this is a company with 2013 revenues of nearly $470 billion, so the ad shouldn’t be construed as a commitment to go all-in on the American worker.
Further, that $250B isn’t going to be about elevating workers to a higher standard of living. The company is relentless, ruthless, in how it beats its suppliers up on price. American factories will see more business, but their margins are going to be paper thin and employees expecting huge raises are likely going to be disappointed. Walmart has a reputation for being painful to work with and nothing in this ad suggests that this is going to change.
They also have a well-earned rep for being about as anti-working man as you can legally be – and they’ve been known to push that line, too. They keep as many employees as possible part-time so they don’t have to pay benefits. Their full-timers averaged, as of 2006, just over $10 an hour and many of their workers qualify for welfare.
It gets worse.
Walmart has also faced accusations involving poor working conditions for its employees. For example, a 2005 class action lawsuit in Missouri asserted approximately 160,000 to 200,000 people who were forced to work off-the-clock, were denied overtime pay, or were not allowed to take rest and lunch breaks. In 2000, Walmart paid $50 million to settle a class-action suit that asserted that 69,000 current and former Walmart employees in Colorado had been forced to work off-the-clock. The company has also faced similar lawsuits in other states, including Pennsylvania, Oregon, and  Minnesota. Class-action suits were also filed in 1995 on behalf of full-time Walmart pharmacists whose base salaries and working hours were reduced as sales declined, resulting in the pharmacists being treated like hourly employees.
Walmart has also been accused of ethical problems. It is said that the Walmart employees are gender discriminated during the hiring process and discriminated against in the work area. Wal-Mart v. Dukes was a discrimination case on behalf of more than 1.5 million current and former female employees of Walmart’s 3,400 stores across the United States. (9th circuit 2007) Dr. William Bliebly who evaluated Walmart’s employment policies “against what social science research shows to be factors that create and sustain bias and those that minimize bias” (Bliebly) and he finished by saying, the men and women not being created equal in the workforce is what Walmart is doing and what they should essentially not be doing.
And for fun, Google [walmart unions].
If I try to catalog the full extent of Walmart’s war on the working man I’ll be here all week. I do encourage you to review the Criticism of Walmart page at Wikipedia. If you, like me, are careful about citing Wikipedia, ignore the write-up and just click through to the original sources. That will get you a far deeper understanding of the corrosive impact that Sam Walton’s hellish vision has exerted on the American worker, on our working families and on our communities.
It’s not like Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson are short on cash. (Since the song was recorded before Neil Peart joined the band, I’m assuming he has no financial stake in the licensing decision, although you have to think his opinion was solicited. If I’m wrong on this, somebody let me know.) From their Wikipedia entry:
Over the course of their career, Rush has released 24 gold records and 14 platinum records (3 of which have gone multi-platinum) placing them third behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band. Rush ranks 79th in U.S. album sales according to the RIAA with sales of 25 million units. Total worldwide sales approximate 40 million units. Moving Pictures is currently the band’s highest-selling album (4.4 million units).
That’s hardly all. Read the rest of that section to get an idea for their marketability and staying power.
I’m appalled at Rush’s decision to lend their brand credibility to a company that has arguably done more to destroy the “Working Man” than any other in the world. Make no mistake, folks – Rush’s success has been built on the backs – and wallets – of the working class. Hang out at the arena next time they’re in town and see who’s attending. Pay attention when you see a kid (or, given the band’s ridiculous longevity, a balding guy in his 50s) wearing a Rush t-shirt at the mall.
I’m disgusted, and I bet I’m not the only one. Rush owes its fans a huge apology, and this goes double for the ones trying to eke out a living and feed their families working at Walmart (and they have to work there, because Walmart has driven everyone else out of business).
Clearly someone has lost touch with their audience. The sad part is that of all the big, iconic Rock bands out there, Rush is maybe the last one you’d have expected this from.