Community Supporters Join Workers to Call on Walmart and Chairman Rob Walton to Stop Retaliation against Workers who speak out against Poverty Jobs that are Hurting the American Economy
LOS ANGELES –As communities across the country raise their voices in calls for changes at Walmart, workers from nearly a dozen stores in the Los Angeles-area went on strike this morning in the first-ever Walmart Associate walk-out in protest of attempts to silence and retaliate against workers for speaking out for improvements on the job. Hundreds of community supporters, including Dr. Jose Moreno, Executive Director of Los Amigos, Maria Elena Durazo, Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Rev. Eric Lee, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, are joining Walmart Associates in their ongoing calls on Walmart and Chairman Rob Walton to address take home pay so low that Associates are forced to rely on public programs to support their families and understaffing that is keeping workers from receiving sufficient hours and is also hurting customer service. The company has not only refused to address these concerns that are affecting 1.4 million Associates across the country, it has attempted to silence those who speak out and has retaliated against workers for raising concerns that would to help the company, workers and the community.
“Walmart should not be silencing workers for standing up for what’s good for my store, my co-workers, my family and my community,” said Venanzi Luna, a striking worker at the Pico Rivera Walmart. Luna is one of thousands of members of OUR Walmart, the nationwide Associate organization calling for changes at the company. “I am striking to take a stand against Walmart’s illegal bullying tactics.”
The group protested outside the Pico Rivera store with signs reading, “Stand Up, Live Better, Stop Retaliation” and “Stop Trying to Silence Us.” They will be meeting with Walmart workers from nine countries – where workers all have union representation – to launch the UNI Walmart Global Union Alliance to fight for fairness, decent working conditions, and the fundamental human right of freedom of association, including allowing workers who want to join a union if they choose to. This comes as workers striking at Walmart controlled warehouses were joined by hundreds of clergy and community supporters, some of whom were arrested by riot police during the peaceful protest. Warehouse workers in Southern California were on a 15-day strike that included a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage for safe jobs. This week, OUR Walmart members shared concerns about the scheduling and staffing problems to a room full of financial analysts. And, in Dallas and San Diego, hundreds of people recently held marches calling on Walmart to make changes that help rebuild the economy.
“We cannot stand by while the country’s largest employer tries to silence workers who stand up for a better future for their families,” said Maria Elena Durazo, Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Durazo along with communities across the country have been calling for changes through a Unified Call to Change Walmart. “We are here to tell Walmart the company must change the way it treats workers and our community. Our city and our country need big profitable corporations like Walmart and billionaires like the Waltons to take responsibility for rebuilding our economy – and stop squeezing the middle class to the breaking point.”
As front line Walmart workers are facing these hardships, the company is raking in almost $16 billion a year in profits, executives made more than $10 million each in compensation last year. Meanwhile, 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.
“Workers at the country’s largest company should not be forced to rely on public programs just to keep food on the table,” said Rev. Eric Lee, Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “People who work hard should be able to afford the basic necessities. Instead of sweeping these issues under the rug, Walmart and its leader Rob Walton must take responsibility for building a better America.”
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 of stores across 43 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. 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 analysts 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. A resolution proposed by Associate-shareholders to rein in executive pay received unprecedented support, and 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.