Low-wage workers have been staging one-day strikes in recent months, making a statement and disrupting business in the short term while minimizing their risk of being fired. Now, around 100 Walmart workers nationwide are trying a different tactic, launching a strike they say will last until June 7, the date of the company’s annual shareholder meeting, and traveling by caravan through about 30 U.S. cities to Bentonville, Arkansas, in advance of the shareholder meetings in a “Ride for Respect.”One of the striking workers, Dominic Ware, told Josh Eidelson:
“Every associate that works for Walmart has a complaint,” said Ware. “And they think there’s no way out. They think if they say something they’ll be fired, or hours cut, or just looked at differently by managers and their fellow associates. We’ve got to end the fear, and once the fear is gone, you’re going to see thousands of people—more than that…”
Ware’s own fear was not of retaliation but that “I’m more scared about my son one day having to work for Walmart.” Retaliation is a valid fear, though, for people who rely on Walmart’s meager wages and inadequate hours to survive. Last week, worker group OUR Walmart filed 30 unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board, and American Rights at Work released a report documenting cases of retaliation. For instance:
Walmart claims they fired [Carlton] Smith for repeatedly failing to complete his work. However, a closer look at the story of his termination reveals the kind of maneuvering that often lies behind instances of severe discipline given to OUR Walmart leaders. In the first place, Smith says that management’s concerns about his work performance only surfaced after his involvement with OUR Walmart became public. Prior to this, his evaluations were typically in the “meets” or “exceeds expectations” category. In addition, Walmart policy is to terminate an associate after the fourth “coaching” (a form of discipline) in a year for a similar violation, and an individual violation is supposed to “fall off” an associate’s record after one year. In Smith’s case, however, Walmart appears to be counting a coaching that is more than a year old. Further, the coaching that Walmart is counting as Smith’s fourth in one year was delivered on May 8, 2013—exactly one day before a coaching he received on May 9, 2012 would have fallen off his record. Finally, there is the fact that Smith was named Associate of the Month in December 2012, which contradicts Walmart’s claim that he was having chronic performance problems.
A hundred striking workers across cities aren’t likely to shut down any Walmart stores. And a National Labor Relations Board thrown into limbo by Republican filibusters and Republican judges—not to mention decades of weakened labor law enforcement—isn’t likely to bring justice to unjustly fired workers. But Walmart workers, who have so little to support themselves and so much to lose to retaliation, are making clear they aren’t backing down from this fight.
Laura Clawson reports on labor and other issues at DailyKos where this report originally appeared.
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