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Thursday, January 29, 2015  |   Madison, WI: 33.0° F  
MADLAND: A group blog about life in Madison, Wisconsin
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Madland: Walmart and the real cost of Black Friday deals

Before we start talking about the imaginary war on Christmas, let's talk about the actual war on Thanksgiving.

Or should I call it "pre-Black Friday" like Walmart?

The nation's largest employer, Walmart is open on Thanksgiving. That means if you work at Walmart, instead of sitting down to a feast with your family, you'll be expressing your thankfulness to pre-Black Friday shoppers, who have proven to be an unlikable (and occasionally lethal) bunch.

Let's remember that in 2008, a Black Friday stampede killed 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour, a Walmart employee in Valley Stream, New York. Or more locally, I met a guy this week who told me his wife, 8 months pregnant at the time, was whacked with a shopping cart during last year's consumer frenzy.

But instead of scaling back, Walmart is moving the already heinous Black Friday to Thanksgiving Eve, offering sales starting at 6 p.m.

But those deals are subsidized, in part, by our tax dollars, including here in Wisconsin. According to Kevin Kane, an organizer at Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Walmart's wages and benefits are so paltry that 3,000 employees (8,000 people, if you count their family members) currently rely upon BadgerCare, the state's insurance program for low-income people. And he's worried that a "substantial number of them" will be kicked off because Gov. Scott Walker has refused federal funds to expand Medicaid.

Walmart made the news recently for paying such paltry wages that an Ohio store ran a food drive -- for its own workers.

Shopping at Walmart also subsidizes the company's anti-worker bullying. Walmart has been violating labor law by punishing workers who participated in Black Friday protests.

Hey, I'm in the market for a big-screen TV. But you won't find me clawing my way through the crowds next Friday -- and certainly not on Thanksgiving.

If I need to shop big, I might try Costco. The retailing behemoth actually manages to pay workers a living wage. And they're not open on Thanksgiving.

Better yet, I'll shop at a locally owned business -- see Dane Buy Local for a list of ideas. More money will stay here in the community, which helps keep Madison groovy.

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