As Black Friday Approaches, Strikes and Protests by Walmart Workers, Supporters Spread

  As Black Friday Approaches, Strikes and Protests by Walmart Workers,
  Supporters Spread

 Pico Rivera, Calif. workers who set off wave of walkouts in October walk off
    their jobs once again; one of 1,000 protests in run-up to Black Friday

Business Wire

PICO RIVERA, Calif. -- November 20, 2012

As Black Friday nears, Walmart workers and community supporters are beginning
1,000 nationwide non-violent protests leading up to and on Black Friday,
including strikes, rallies, flash mobs, direct action and other efforts to
inform customers about the illegal actions that Walmart has been taking
against its workers. As part of the protests, Walmart workers walked off the
job Tuesday morning in Pico Rivera, just outside Los Angeles, in protest
against the company’s attempts to silence workers who speak out for better
jobs. In October, the workers in Pico Rivera were the first group of Walmart
associates to go on strike in the company’s history.

Last week, the 1,000 protests kicked-off with warehouse workers from Southern
California and Walmart workers from San Leandro, Calif., Seattle, and Dallas
walking off the job. Workers in the Washington DC area joined them yesterday
in going on strike. Walmart workers from cities across the country have
announced additional strikes in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami,
Milwaukee, Washington DC, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Minnesota in
the upcoming days.

“We’re not trying to shut down business, we are supporting our co-workers who
speak out for better working conditions,” said Yesenia Yaber, a two-year
Walmart Associate in Chicago, Ill. “These Associates have been speaking out
for changes that will help all Associates help our families and make Walmart
stores better places for our customers to shop. Yet, Walmart reacts by
attempting to silence them. No one wants to strike, we want to work, but we
can’t continue under Walmart’s threats and retaliation.”

Workers’ concerns about wages and staffing have been affirmed by newly
uncovered company pay-plans exposed by the Huffington Post, poor sales reports
and a new study on the retail industry. Huffington Post uncovered what
reporters call “a rigid pay structure for hourly employees that makes it
difficult for most to rise much beyond poverty-level wages.” Meanwhile, last
week’s sales reports show that understaffing, which affects workers’
scheduling and take-home pay, is also having an impact on company sales. Last
week’s sales report showed that Walmart's comp store sales are about half what
competitors like Target reported this quarter, continuing a pattern of
underperformance by the world’s largest retailer.

“Walmart is doing everything in its power to attempt to silence those who
speak out. But nothing—not even this baseless unfair labor practice
charge—will stop us from speaking out,” said Colby Harris, a Walmart associate
from Lancaster, Texas, in response to Walmart’s frivolous unfair labor charge
and the number of charges filed by workers against the company. “Unfair labor
is working full time and living in poverty. Unfair labor is seeing your health
care premiums skyrocket year after year. Unfair labor is being denied the
hours needed to support your family. Unfair labor is being punished for
exercising your freedom of speech and association. Walmart workers know what
unfair labor is—because we endure it every day. So until Walmart listens to
our concerns, we will continue to speak out. We will continue to stand up when
Walmart attempts to silence those who speak out. We will continue to demand
respect.”

As workers and community supporters call for changes at Walmart, a new report
from the national public policy center Demos, shows that better jobs at
Walmart and other large retailers would have an impact on our economy. A wage
floor equivalent of $25,000 per year for a full-time, year-round employee for
retailers with more than 1000 employees would lift 1.5 million retail workers
and their families out of poverty or near poverty, add to economic growth,
increase retail sales and create over 100,000 new jobs. The findings in the
study prove there is a flaw in the conventional thinking by companies like
Walmart that profits, low prices and decent wages cannot co-exist.

“Walmart has forgotten about families,” said Larry Gross, the Executive
Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival in Los Angeles, Calif.
“Thanksgiving day scheduling, poverty paychecks, and unaffordable healthcare
are all evidence of Walmart’s disregard for the 1.4 million workers that keep
its doors open and shelves stocked. We should expect more from the country’s
largest employer.”

Walmart workers have been speaking out about the company’s manipulation of
hours and benefits, efforts to try to keep people from working full-time and
their discrimination against women and people of color, but rather than
listening to the concerns facing 1.4 million Walmart workers, Walmart has
attempted to silence them. Some workers have also been speaking out about the
early start of Black Friday sales – on Thanksgiving Day –which will keep many
retail workers from being able to spend the holiday with their families. Watch
a video from Walmart workers on why they’re standing up or follow the
conversation on Twitter at #WalmartStrikers.

With so many Americans struggling to make ends meet and Walmart taking in $16
billion in profits and compensating its executives $10 million each, workers
and community leaders have been calling on Walmart and Chairman Rob Walton to
address the wage gap the company is creating. At the same time frontline
Walmart workers are facing financial hardships, the Walton Family – heirs to
the Walmart fortune – are the richest family in the country with more wealth
than the bottom 42% of American families combined.

Countless civil rights, immigrant rights, women’s rights and religious groups,
including Color of Change, National Alliance of Latino, African and Caribbean
Communities, Interfaith Worker Justice, andthe National Organization of
Women,are organizing their members in support of Walmart workers. Online,
individuals have been adding support and planning protests on their own,
starting new Facebook pages, groups and events. Through the Corporate Action
Network, activists are “adopting” stores where they can inform shoppers about
the struggles that Walmart workers are facing.

In October, OUR Walmart leaders held the first-ever strikes against the
mega-retailer. At that time, workers walked off their jobs in more than 12
cities and with the support of national and local leaders, held protests at
more than 200 stores. Since then, workers have walked off the job in Richmond,
CA and Dallas, TX, and support for OUR Walmart, the associate organization
calling for change, has continued to grow.

Striking warehouse workers, who move billions of dollars of merchandise for
Walmart, joined the call to speak about the retaliation they have experienced
for speaking out against unsafe working conditions, including extreme
temperatures, broken and unsafe equipment and inadequate access to clean
drinking water. The workers from the Inland Empire, outside of Los Angeles,
held a 15-day strike that included a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage for safe jobs
in September.

Energy around the calls for Walmart to change its treatment of workers and
communities has been building. In just one year,OUR Walmart, the unique
workers’ organization founded by Walmart Associates,has grown from a group of
100 Walmart workers to an army of thousands of Associates in hundreds
ofstores across43 states.Together, OUR Walmart members have been leading
the way in calling for an end to double standards that are hurting workers,
communities and our economy.

The alleged Mexican bribery scandal, uncovered by the New York Times, has
shined a light on the failure of internal controls within Walmart that extend
to significant breaches of compliance in stores and along the company’s supply
chain. The company is facing yet another gender discrimination lawsuit on
behalf of 100,000 women in California and in Tennessee, and a wage theft class
action suit in Chicago. In the company’s warehousing system, in which Walmart
has continually denied responsibility for the working conditions for tens of
thousands of people who work for warehouses where they move billions of
dollars of goods, workers are facing rampant wage theft and health and safety
violations so extreme that they have led to an unprecedented $600,000 in
fines. The Department of Labor fined a Walmart seafood supplier for wage and
hour violations, and Human Rights Watch has spoken out about the failures of
controls in regulating suppliers overseas, including a seafood supplier in
Thailand where trafficking and debt bondage were cited.

Financial investors are also joining the call for Walmart to create better
checks and balances, transparency and accountability that will protect workers
and communities and strengthen the company. At the company’s annual
shareholder meeting in Bentonville, OUR Walmart member Jackie Goebel brought a
stadium full of shareholders to their feet applauding her call for an end to
the short staffing that’s hurting workers and customer service. Goebel was one
of four Associate-shareholders who proposed a resolution calling for the
reining in of executive pay. The resolution received unprecedented support
from major pension funds that voted their shares against Walmart CEO and
members of the board this June, amounting to a ten-fold increase and overall 1
in 3 shares not held by the Walton family against the company’s leadership.

These widespread problems have also thwarted Walmart’s plans for growth,
particularly in urban markets. Calling the company a “bad actor,” New York
City mayoral candidates have all been outspoken in their opposition to Walmart
entering the city without addressing labor and community relations’ problems.
This month, the city’s largest developer announced an agreement with a
union-grocery store at a site that Walmart had hoped would be its first
location in New York. In Los Angeles, mayoral candidates are refusing to
accept campaign donations from the deep pockets of Walmart, and in Boston,
Walmart was forced to suspend its expansion into the city after facing
significant community opposition.

Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our
economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by the United Food &
Commercial Workers (UFCW), we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union
members, small business owners, religious leaders, community organizations,
women’s advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials and
ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of
our country.

Contact:

Making Change at Walmart
Dawn Le, 202-549-6798
or
Lynsey Kryzwick, 646-200-5311
 
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