Waiting for Alice

Alice Walton at Walmart Shareholders' Meeting 2012

She occasionally gives a million or two to pet causes, the way you or I might give a dollar to a panhandler. How nice:

Alice Walton, an heir to the Walmart fortune, is worth $35 billion. Today, a lot of poor people stood outside her house and yelled at her.

Those poor people were Walmart employees from across America, and dozens of their shouting union supporters. The house was 515 Park Avenue, a towering three-tiered apartment building at 60th St. in midtown Manhattan. Walton purchased the 30th and 31st floors of the building earlier this summer for $25 million. It’s a bit misleading to call it her house—her primary home is a ranch in Texas, where she breeds horses. This duplex is just a place she pops into from time to time, to avoid the hassle of luxury hotels.

Although Alice Walton has gotten $100 million richer this year, she does not have a job, per se. She is sometimes referred to as a “billionaire philanthropist.” That’s a bit misleading, too. Despite being the single richest family in the world, the Waltons have famously never been too big on philanthropy, except to the extent that it can be used to minimize their taxes. Alice Walton’s main personal work of philanthropy is Crystal Bridges, the billion-dollar art museumin Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart’s headquarters are located. Whether you consider this a work of charity or a work of corporate and family image-buffing depends on your perspective, I guess.

 […] All of the workers who’d come to be arrested were designated by the green cloths tied around their arms, and by the fact that many of them had emergency phone numbers written down their forearms in bold black marker. As the police looked on patiently, an organizer instructed them on exactly how the arrests would proceed. “They’ll be using zip ties today,” she told them, in the manner of a waiter explaining the day’s special. About two dozen of them walked out into the intersection of Park Avenue and 60th street, sat down in a semicircle, and locked arms. The group was far outnumbered by police, most of whom were standing around with nothing to do. One officer took up a bullhorn and read a script informing them that they would be arrested if they didn’t leave. Then the officers went down the line, one by one, helping the protesters to their feet, and taking their IDs, which they had ready, and pulling zip ties on their wrists, and leading them to waiting paddy wagons. It was all very polite. Several elderly women were participating in the sit-in, and the cops helped them each up graciously. The small core of demonstrators was surrounded by a layer of police, then a layer of organizers and legal observers, then a layer of reporters and cameramen, then fellow protesters and bystanders, like an Everlasting Gobstopper of civil disobedience. “Have fun in The Tombs! You’re cut pal, they’ll like you!” yelled one onlooker, who was sporting a “Colorado Volleyball” backpack. An internet commenter in the flesh. He gestured to the nearest cop—”You know I’m with you guys. I hate these fucking hippies.” The cop did not respond.

After everyone from the intersection has been loaded up, the organizers move everyone back onto the curb in front of the building. Some words of encouragement are spoken by the organizers, and the milling reporters grab their last interviews, the police begin waving traffic down the street again, and the whole thing winds down with a few last chants.

“We believe that we will win! We believe that we will win!” Thirty floors above, Alice Walton’s $25 million apartment sits empty. Walton is, by most accounts, a nice woman. It would be nice if she would listen to all of these nice people, who have made her rich, but who are themselves poor. But I don’t believe she will. No matter how nice she may appear to be to those who admire her pretty horses and beautiful art museum, she is, in fact, a villain.

H/T R.K.

One thought on “Waiting for Alice

  1. “Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.” Carnegie, Gospel of Wealth. Did Carnegie die broke? “Do as I say and not as I do,” is the credo of the wealthy.

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