Workers who’ve been fired by Walmart for their activism set a Labor Day deadline for Walmart to rehire them and raise wages to a livable level, or see the largest mobilization against Walmart since Black Friday. Well, of course Walmart didn’t rehire the 20 workers it fired after they went on strike in June, or rescind other discipline against dozens more worker activists. And it certainly didn’t raise wages. So what’s next? Protests in 15 cities, coming this Thursday.
The timing of one of those protests is particularly important; the Large Retailer Accountability Act passed by the Washington, DC, city council to give big box store workers a living wage of $12.50 an hour was sent to Mayor Vincent Gray last week; it’s still unclear if he’ll stand up to Walmart and sign it. And Washington will be the site of one of Thursday’s protests, as will Los Angeles, where a Walmart has been proposed in Chinatown. The plan is for significant rallies in those and a dozen other cities:
According to the campaign, Thursday’s rallies will have the largest total turnout by Walmart employees, and the biggest overall number of participants, of any Walmart mobilization since the one-day November 23 strike last year, in which organizers say four hundred-some workers walked off the job and thousands of supporters turned out to support them. Since then, organizers say hundreds of workers took part in collective confrontations with local management over scheduling on April 24, and over a hundred participated in the longer June work stoppage, which included a week of protests in and around Walmart’s Arkansas hometown. United Food & Commercial Workers union official and OUR Walmart strategist Dan Schlademan told The Nation in April to expect “much bigger actions” in 2013, saying, “Either we prove it’s growing or it’s not. And we’re certainly going to prove it’s growing this year.”
Protests like these highlight not just the piss-poor wages paid to Walmart workers themselves, but the way the chain drives down wages at other retailers, relies on government assistance to enable its workers to get by on poverty wages, and actually kills jobs. And this is what Washington’s mayor might try to protect by vetoing the living wage bill?
Laura Clawson reports on labor and other issues for Daily Kos, where this post first appeared.