Workers at Walmart cite poor conditions

by Dave Anderson

Where will the next big movement come from? Fights in the workplace can be the training ground. Photo: OUR Walmart.

Photo: OUR Walmart.

This month, something quite remarkable happened in America. Hundreds of Walmart workers who don’t have a union stood up to the company, knowing that it has a long history of illegally retaliating against its employees. In a high unemployment economy, they went on strike for a short time and protested at the firm’s annual shareholder meeting. They are members of the employee group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart).

In Boulder, the Coalition for Social and Environmental Responsibility in Boulder (CSERB) supports OUR Walmart by picketing the Walmart at 28th and Iris every second Saturday of each month.

CSERB leader Matt Nicodemus points out that this strike was “not the same as a unionized worker joining a company-wide work stoppage. Though she is part of a widespread collective action and therefore within her rights to strike, the associate may be the only one protesting within her own store and managers have all sorts of ways of intimidating and punishing ‘troublemakers.’ It takes real bravery to step out and publicly challenge the company in that way.” Continue reading

Saving Our Unions: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win?

Steve Early

Steve Early

Any review of the recent ups and downs of U.S. labor must start in Michigan, long a bastion of blue-collar unionism rooted in car manufacturing. Fifteen months ago, this Midwestern industrial state became another notch in the belt of the National Right to Work Committee, joining the not-very-desirable company of Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and twenty other “open shop” states.

The emergence of sun-belt labor relations in the birthplace of the United Auto Workers (UAW) was shocking to some. But this political setback was preceded by high-profile defeats in neighboring states that began in 2005. First Indiana, followed by Wisconsin and Ohio, stripped public workers of their bargaining rights (although the Republican attack on government employees was later repelled by popular referendum in the Buckeye State). Then in early 2012, GOP legislators in Indiana passed a right-to-work law applicable to private industry. It banned any further negotiation of labor-management agreements that compelled workers to make a financial contribution to the cost of union representation, in established bargaining units or newly organized ones.1

In November 2012, organized labor tried to buck the emerging anti-union trend with two ballot questions designed to strengthen public-sector bargaining rights in Michigan. Despite the expenditure of many millions of dollars by affiliates of the AFL-CIO and Change To Win, both measures were defeated.2 In its lame-duck session just a few weeks later, GOP legislators in Lansing took retaliatory aim at union security in Michigan’s private sector. When the region’s latest “right to work” bill landed on his desk, Republican Governor Rick Snyder was most pleased to sign it into law. Continue reading

How Walmart Organizers Turned the Internet Into a Shop Floor

Walmart workers and organizers prove ‘clicktivism’ can evolve into offline activism.

by  Sarah Jaffe

 

walmart_strikers_social_media_our_make_change_facebook_twitter_clicktivism.jpg The basic tools of labor organizing haven’t changed in hundreds of years. There’s no substitute for face-to-face conversations about working conditions and what can be done to change them. Organizers still make home visits, and workers still talk to one another in the break room or the parking lot.

But in the new wave of low-wage worker organizing that has swept the country in the past two years, some labor groups have begun to use the Internet to facilitate the kinds of personal conversations that lead to workplace action. As unions, community organizations, workers centers and even “netroots” groups like MoveOn.org pour resources into organizing a massive, diffuse fast-food and retail workforce that had often been written off as unorganizable, the web has provided a cheap, effective tool to reach low-wage workers in ways that are both personal and lasting. In particular, the United Food and Commercial Workers-backed groups OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart have enthusiastically experimented with web tools in their recent efforts to make a difference at the nation’s biggest retailer. Continue reading

Black Friday Actions Empower Wal-Mart Workers

Wal-Mart touts a caring culture. Now, its workers are caring for each other by speaking out.

by  Sarah Jaffe

Colby Harris, a Texas Wal-Mart worker fired after striking, traveled to New Jersey to inspire other Wal-Mart workers at a November 29 'Black Friday' action. (Sarah Jaffe)

Colby Harris, a Texas Wal-Mart worker fired after striking, traveled to New Jersey to inspire other Wal-Mart workers at a November 29 ‘Black Friday’ action. (Sarah Jaffe)

‘When I saw the food bins in Ohio, it made me think, “Employees are not just hungry on Thanksgiving, they’re hungry every day because they’re getting paid low wages,” ‘ says Tiffany Beroid, a worker at a Wal-Mart in Laurel, Md.

“I’ve come today to represent all the silent Wal-Mart workers that are afraid to stand up for their rights,” Elaine Rozier, a Wal-Mart employee of eight years, told a crowd of about 150 labor activists and community supporters—accompanied by raucous musicians with Occupy Guitarmy and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra—on Friday in Secaucus, N.J., across the street from a well-guarded Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club (the wholesale club owned by Wal-Mart and named for the company’s celebrated founder, Sam Walton). “I’m standing up for my rights, my kids, my grandkids, and their kids,” Rozier said.

Perhaps because of the fear she mentioned, Rozier, who comes from Miami, was one of the only identified Wal-Mart employees in the crowd. Along with Mark Bowers and Colby Harris, two Wal-Mart workers from Texas, Rozier traveled to New Jersey for Black Friday, Wal-Mart’s biggest retail sales day, to demonstrate to the workers inside the Secaucus store that they, too, could stand up for their rights.

Accompanied by ten supporters, the three workers blocked traffic on the street alongside the Wal-Mart, chanting, singing and clapping until police took them away in handcuffs.

The protest was one of hundreds of Black Friday actions organized by OUR Walmart, a United Food and Commercial Workers-backed group of Wal-Mart workers—including Rozier, Bowers and Harris—that has been putting on strikes, protests, and direct actions at Wal-Mart for over a year in support of better wages, benefits and conditions. The first wave of strikes hit in October of 2012, and on Black Friday of that year, some 400 workers reportedly went on strike at stores around the country.

“Stand up, live better” has become the rallying cry of the movement, a twist on the retail giant’s own slogan, “Save money, live better.” On Friday, workers in Secaucus repeatedly echoed the “stand up” line. Continue reading

Since Black Friday, I No Longer Worry About NSA Surveillance

by Barbara Garson

Walmart's neo-Pinkertons  monitoring a  Black Friday protest

Walmart’s neo-Pinkertons monitoring a
Black Friday protest

I took part in one of the 1500 Walmart protests this past Black Friday. It gave me a new perspective on NSA Surveillance.

Well before noon my husband and I were sitting on a sunny bench in front of the Secaucus, NJ, Walmart. To the Walmart security agents, conferring with groups of Hudson County Sheriff’s officers, we must have looked like the silver haired elderly couple that we are. They didn’t seem to realize that we, like they, were waiting for the demonstrators.

“Some of these demonstrators want to get hit by a cop,” a young security man said. Perhaps he was only currying favor with the “real” cops when he assured them that if such a thing occurred that day, no one would later find those pictures on any Walmart surveillance camera. [At the risk of ruining the suspense, nothing remotely like that happened.] Continue reading

Thursday Civil Disobedience at Los Angles Walmart as Worker Actions Resume

On Thursday, November 7 at 5:00pm 100 women and men of  conscience will commit an act of non-violent civil disobedience sitting down at Walmart in Chinatown (at the intersection of Cesar Chavez Ave and Grand).
La_walmart_nov7

Continue reading

Why California Taxpayers Should Support the Wal-Mart Strikers

by John Logan

(June6) Last week, non-union Wal-Mart employees began the first “prolonged” strike in the 50-year history of the nation’s largest employer. Last October and November, Wal-Mart employees across the country participated in a series of one-day strikes and walkouts against the company in support of a minimum $13 per hour wage, more predictable scheduling and an end to management retaliation against employees who speak up at work. Wal-Mart has grown accustomed to isolated protests in the past, but has always believed that they would quickly die out, given workers’ understandable fear of management retaliation. But this time it may be different. Wal-Mart workers in California, Florida, Massachusetts, Washington and elsewhere are striking this week for more full-time jobs, a minimum wage of $25,000 per year, improved working conditions, better health and pension benefits and basic respect on the job. Other protesting Wal-Mart workers from across the country will participate in a week-long “Ride for Respect,” joining the strikers as they head for a national day of action at the company’s AGM in Bentonville, Arkansas on June 7.

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,219 other followers