Walmart’s Exploitation Is Nothing New, So What Made Workers Finally Fight Back?

terrance_tory_walmart

by Sarah Jaffe

(Nov. 14) Last month, when strikers from Southern California arrived in Bentonville, Ark., to protest Walmart’s labor practices with reggae beats, pots and pans, and a Latin American-inflected protest culture, it became clear to onlookers that America’s superstore was no longer the small family business that Sam Walton had founded and grown in the cradle of the anti-labor culture of Southern evangelicaldom. But it’s also become clear that Walmart’s own ambitions to become a global empire — expanding beyond southern suburbs to new regions, and continuing to erode protections for its workers — have brought the “family values” behemoth into confrontation with another kind of religious and labor rights tradition.

Walmart has long been the Holy Grail for labor organizers. The nation’s largest retailer, it is notorious for its low wages, lack of benefits, abusive labor practices, and for leaving its workers dependent on public assistance while making the Walton family rich beyond imagination. And it has been nearly impossible to organize.

Until now.

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Interfaith Worker Advocates Take Action to Support the 99 Percent Nov. 17-20 National Days of Action Planned

Interfaith Worker Justice

Interfaith congregations and worker advocates are supporting the 99 percent by taking action against wage theft and lifting up the need for just jobs on Nov. 17-20. Workers Centers in the Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) network are sponsoring actions in nearly 20 locations across the United States.

“This economy is unfair,” said Kim Bobo, Executive Director of IWJ. “The 99 percent are saying that we need jobs but we need jobs that are just – jobs that pay a living wage and offer benefits that you support a family on – jobs with employers who don’t steal your wages from you.”

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Congregations tackle local issues in support of worker justice this Labor Day weekend

Interfaith Worker Justice

by Stuart Elliott

“Labor Sunday” was first celebrated 98 years ago and was intended to lift up the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement. For the past 15 years, interfaith religious communities across the United States have been celebrating Labor in the Pulpit/on the Bimah/in the Minbar during Labor Day worship services – a program designed by Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) in partnership with the AFL-CIO. But this year it’s all about context as congregations prepare to address very specific local issues facing workers and working families in their communities.

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Cleaning Workers at Cub Foods to Announce Hunger Strike


Actions in 20 Cities to Urge Company to Meet with Workers to Establish Fair Conditions

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha

This Friday a group of retail cleaning workers and allies with the in Minneapolis-based Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (Center of Workers United in Struggle) will announce an open-ended Hunger Strike to call on Cub Foods to meet with them to establish fair wages and working conditions for the workers who clean their stores.

On Monday, May 23, groups of workers and their allies in over 20 cities nationwide will deliver letters to Supervalu stores (the parent company of Cub Foods) to send a message to Cub to meet with cleaning workers to establish a code of conduct ensuring fair wages and working conditions.

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CBS special this Sunday: How Faith Communities Help the Unemployed

This Sunday, April 10, CBS will broadcast a religion special about how the unemployed are being helped by faith communities. The program, Unemployment: How Faith Communities Help Job Seekers, features an interview with Rev. Paul Sherry, Director of IWJ’s DC Office and Campaign Coordinator of Faith Advocates for Jobs.

Faith Advocates for Jobs has produced a toolkit for congregations that want to get involved with the campaign. Standing With the Unemployed: A Congregational Toolkit can be downloaded here (it’s a PDF).

Check your local CBS station for the exact time of the broadcast (in some areas, it’s being broadcast later in the week, or the following week).
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Religious Leaders Condemn Attacks on Public Employees

Interfaith Worker Justice

“February is shaping up as the cruelest month workers have known in decades,” columnist Harold Meyerson wrote in Wednesday’s Washington Post, referring to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights and cut pay and benefits without any negotiation – and his threat to call out the National Guard if the state’s public employees go on strike.

But the assault on public workers is under way in multiple states. Bills that would in one form or another roll back labor rights and wage standards have recently been (or will soon be) introduced in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

Amidst this onslaught, the Board of Directors of Interfaith Worker Justice today issued a statement that brings religious teachings to bear on the current national standoff. The statement, Stop Attacking Workers, reads:

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Atlanta Douglass-Debs Dinner Message: Stop Wage Theft

by Milton Tambor

At Atlanta DSA‘s November 6 Douglass Debs Dinner in Atlanta, Kim Bobo, executive director and founder of Interfaith Worker Justice, urged and exhorted the 125 people in attendance to carry out the prophet Malachi’s message and fight those who are defrauding labor of their wages and depriving immigrants of justice. Bobo then graphically described the “crime wave no one talks about”–the billions of dollars stolen from millions of low wage workers in the US every year. Those abuses include paying workers far less than the legal minimum wage, denying workers their rightful overtime and purposely mis-classifying employees as independent contractors.


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Taking On Human Rights Violations in Retail Cleaning

On November 6, cleaning workers and their allies in Minneapolis will lead a March for Justice in Retail Cleaning, with stops at Target, SuperValu and Lunds & Byerly’s, calling on those companies to agree to a code of conduct guaranteeing fair wages and working conditions for the workers who clean their stores.

Wages and working conditions in retail cleaning have plummeted over the last 10 years as retail giants like Target and SuperValu have subcontracted cleaning out to other companies, a process that pits dozens of cleaning companies against each other, each underbidding the other in the mad scramble to win contracts.

“We are tired of the violations of human rights in our workplaces as we suffer the results of this process,” said Mario Colloly, a retail cleaning worker at Cub Foods (a SuperValu chain). “Workers will no longer watch the profits of these corporate giants soar as our wages and working conditions spiral downward.”

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Kim Bobo to Keynote Atlanta DSA Douglass-Debs Dinner

Kim Bobo

On November 6, Metro Atlanta Democratic So­cialists of America will host its fourth annual Douglass-Debs Dinner, this time buffet style at Paschal’s Restau­rant. Atlanta DSA will be honoring CWA Local 3204 President Walt Andrews and Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless Execu­tive Director Anita Beaty. In ad­dition, Students and Workers in Solidarity, an activist network of Emory students who are support­ing the Sodexo food service work­ers in their union organizing cam­paign, will also receive an award.

The keynote speaker for the eve­ning will be Kim Bobo, colum­nist and executive director of In­terfaith Worker Justice. Founded in 1996 and headquartered in Chi­cago, Interfaith Worker Justice is the leading national interfaith or­ganization promoting the rights of workers. Its affiliated workers’ cen­ters assist workers by filing wage claims with government agencies, sponsoring legal clinics and devel­oping resource material on work­place rights. Bobo’s recent book, Wage Theft In America: Why Mil­lions Of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid And What We Can Do About It, takes on what has been described as “the crime wave no one talks about.”

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Major Legislation to Combat Wage Theft Introduced Today

Interfaith Worker Justice

Today Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL) introduced the Wage Theft Prevention and Community Partnership Act, which would authorize the U.S. Department of Labor to establish a competitive grant program to prevent wage theft. The bill would expand the efforts of enforcement agencies and community organizations to educate workers about their rights and the remedies available to them.

A landmark study of low-wage workers conducted by UCLA, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the National Employment Law Project found that 15 percent of workers’ wages are stolen on average each week. The Wage Theft Prevention and Community Partnership Grant Program would provide vitally needed resources to worker centers, legal clinics, and other local groups to educate and assist workers victimized by wage theft.

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