Responding to President Obama’s call to address the income inequality that he said was the “defining challenge of our time,” Walmart workers, elected officials, faith leaders, and prominent environmental and advocacy groups are calling on the president to challenge Walmart to take real steps to improve jobs and protect the environment. The wave of calls for change comes after the president visited a Walmart store in Mountain View, Calif., on Friday where hundreds of people, including members of OUR Walmart and UFCW Locals 5, 8, and 648 rallied and asked him to challenge the low-wage employer to improve jobs.
“When I heard President Obama was visiting my store, I wanted to tell him what income inequality really looks like—right here working at the country’s largest employer,” said Pam Ramos, a Mountain View Walmart worker. “I bring home $400 every two weeks. The President needs to know there is no solution to end income inequality in this country that doesn’t include improving jobs at Walmart. We are here today to ask him to stand with us in calling on Walmart to raise wages and pay my co-workers and me a minimum of $25,000 a year for full-time work.”
UFCW International President Joe Hansen released a statement on the President’s visit to Walmart saying, “On Friday, President Obama will stand side by side with a company known for low wages, few benefits, unreliable hours, discrimination against women, violating workers’ rights, and yes, environmental degradation. Despite promising to be a leader on climate, Walmart’s greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise. According to its own Global Responsibility Report, the company’s emissions grew 2 percent, nearly half a million metric tons, in the last year alone.
“More than anything, the President’s visit sends a terrible message to workers across America. He is lending credibility to a bad actor when he should be joining the calls for Walmart to change. A federal agency—the National Labor Relations Board—is prosecuting Walmart for retaliating against workers who stand up and speak out. Taxpayers are subsidizing Walmart which pays many of its own workers so little that they must rely on food stamps and Medicaid. And at a time when there is a renewed conversation about addressing income inequality, Walmart’s business model is making the problem worse.
“After the pep rally in California, I invite the President to meet with Walmart workers who can tell him firsthand about their struggles.”
In addition to the hundreds of people that rallied outside of the store, 32 groups, including UFCW locals from across the country, Global Exchange, Jobs with Justice, Moveon.org, and Rainforest Action Network, signed onto a joint statement asking the President to challenge Walmart to help strengthen the economy and protect the environment by becoming a leader in sustainability and creating better jobs.