Unions, progressive student orgs speak out against Trump/Walmart ties

Thursday, September 14, 2017 - 7:59pm

The Trump and Walmart Make America Worse college tour, organized by “Making Change at Walmart,” made a stop at the Diag Thursday afternoon to meet with students and host speakers on the alleged ties between the Trump administration and the Walmart corporation. About 30 students and community members wandered in and out of the event.

The event was supported and led by Progressives at the University of Michigan, the Lecturers Employee Union, the Huron Valley Democratic Socialists of America and Michelle Deatrick, a Washtenaw County Commissioner who is running for Michigan State Senate.

Amy Ritter, the communications director for “Making Change at Walmart,” a campaign run the United Food and Commercial Workers International, said the tour is meant to highlight the similarities and connections between President Trump, his cabinet and the international corporation Walmart. She specifically mentioned the relationship between Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Walton foundation in regards to charter schools.

“We’re hitting over 25 campuses throughout the month of September to expose the shared values of Trump and Walmart and how those values destroy public education, divide our country, promote a low-wage debt economy and do not align with student values as they should,” Ritter said.

Phil Bianco, a member of Huron Valley Democratic Socialists of America, spoke at the rally and said the consistencies between Republican and Walmart’s policies are too similar to ignore.

“There is no doubt that the Trump regime and Republican rule has cost many their lives and well-being and will continue to do so unless we stop them,” Bianco said. “The rule of capital and the billionaire class, of which Walmart is a key player, have also been a disaster for the working class and poor in this country and globally.”

Rackham student Akash Shah met with organizers after the rally and said the points “Making Change at Walmart” made were important for college students specifically because of their place at an academic institution.

“I think it’s an incredible thing that a lot of students are trying to voice their opinions and trying to get others to understand where they’re coming from,” Shah said. “With (Making Change at Walmart’s) movement specifically, I think it pertains to all of us in the sense that a proper education can drastically alter the future of a country … and I think that our current administration is kind of lacking in expertise in terms of their ability to cater towards kids who want to get an education.”

Ann Arbor City Councilmember Jack Eaton (D-Ward 4), who attended the rally, noted his excitement to see students involved in political organizations on campus and said students at a public university should know how to support their institution.

“This kind of (rally) gets (students) involved in some of the most crucial issues,” Eaton said. “As the speakers said, Walmart and their owners have been funding the defunding of public education. This is a public university. I know students who are going to the University of Michigan are incurring huge debt because we don’t fund public education the way we used to.”

With Michigan State University as the next stop on their tour, Ritter said the college tour was organized to show college students their effect on the global economy and their impact on politics through the places they shop.

“It’s hard to change the world, but you can change your world and every day, students here on this campus have the opportunity to change the world in the small decisions that they make and where they put their purchasing power, their economic power, their political power through their vote — they’re able to make that change and we want people to be aware of that. You don’t have to be a CEO to change the country.”