Tens of thousands of Americans protested at 1,600 Walmart stores across the country on November 28, Black Friday, and called on the company to pay associates a minimum of $15 an hour and provide full-time work. The broad group says the country’s largest employer and the Waltons—Walmart’s majority owners—are abusing their power and hurting American families by allowing Walmart to violate workers’ rights. While the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year, Walmart brings in more than $16 billion in annual profits; and the Walton family has built up nearly $150 billion in wealth.
With protests already underway, Walmart workers—members of OUR Walmart—are continuing a nationwide strike protesting the company’s illegal retaliation against associates who speak out for better jobs.
In Phoenix, Sandra Sok walked off the job Wednesday for the first time and said: “Many of us are living in deep poverty and going hungry because the Waltons won’t pay us a fair wage. When my coworkers speak out about these issues, the company tries to silence us. For all of my brothers and sisters who have experienced illegal threats, I am on strike.” Sandy is paid only $400 every two weeks and has worked at Walmart for nine years.
Reports from protests around the country include:
· Los Angeles: Walmart workers, on strike to protest Walmart’s retaliation, and community members carried out a 24-hour fast outside a Walmart store in protest of the hunger that Walmart and the Waltons are forcing onto many of their families.
· Washington, DC: A live band played to support striking workers outside the District’s new Walmart, where a group of workers held a sit-down strike on Wednesday. This is the first time that workers at the new store in Washington and in neighboring Virginia went on strike.
· Albuquerque: A group of “Raging Grannies” sang to show their solidarity with workers.
· Denver: Santa Claus, his elves, Walmart workers, and hundreds of community supporters delivered a bag of coal to Walmart.
· North Bergen, New Jersey: Members of the clergy delivered a symbolic food bin to the store while chanting “dignity, not charity.”
Photos from all of the actions can be found here.
Walmart workers started walking off the job last Wednesday in cities nationwide. Inspired by workers in Los Angeles who held the first-ever sit down strike in company history, associates in Washington, DC held a sit-down strike at the new store on H Street. Workers in Washington, DC and Virginia went on strike for the first time and were joined by workers who walked off the job in cities and towns nationwide.
Growing pressure on the company to raise pay and provide full-time work comes as an increasing number of Americans and Walmart workers point to OUR Walmart as making significant changes at the country’s largest retailer. Since last Black Friday, the company committed to raise wages for its lowest paid workers, rolled out a new scheduling system that allows workers to sign up for open shifts and improved protections for pregnant workers in response to public calls from OUR Walmart. Workers at more than 2,200 Walmart stores nationwide have signed a petition calling on Walmart and the Waltons to publicly commit to paying $15 an hour and providing consistent, full-time hours.
The Walton family, which controls the Walmart empire, is the richest family in the U.S.—with the wealth of 43% of American families combined. While many Walmart workers are unable to feed and clothe their families, the Walton family takes in $8.6 million a day in Walmart dividends alone to build on its $150 billion in wealth.
Walmart workers began speaking out last week about the severe hunger issues that too many of them are facing because they can’t afford groceries. A group of workers started sharing their stories on Walmart Hunger Games Tumblr after reading about their co-workers’ struggles in a new analysis about Walmart’s role in reinforcing the hunger crisis in America.
For the past three years, Walmart workers have been raising concerns about persistent understaffing at stores and its impact on wasted food, un-stocked shelves, long check-out lines and lower sales, noting that better jobs at Walmart will improve customers’ shopping experience and strengthen the company’s bottom line. The company has reported losing up to $3 billion a year because its shelves go un-stocked. Consumers, analysts, shoppers and workers say that by improving jobs, Walmart can mend its reputation with shoppers, grow the business and help workers support their families.