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CONTACT: OUR Walmart
Lynsey Kryzwick: 917.683.4474; Derrick Plummer: 202.251.9459; Giovanna Frank-Vitale: 646.200.5334
Walmart Workers Risk Arrest in Protest of Low Wages, Illegal Retaliation
Workers Set Labor Day Deadline for Executives to Make Changes
Hundreds of DC-Area Residents Rally in Support of Fired Walmart Workers
WASHINGTON - August 22 - Following a surge in illegal retaliation against workers speaking out for better jobs at Walmart, a group of current and recently-fired Walmart workers, along with hundreds of community supporters, protested outside the company’s offices in Washington, DC Thursday afternoon.
Citing calls for better jobs and an end to the illegal retaliation that have gone unanswered by the country’s largest employer, several Walmart workers are risking arrest blocking the door in front of the company’s DC offices when company officials refused to address their concerns.
“Enough is enough. We cannot wait any longer for Walmart to do what’s right for its workers and our families and all of our communities,” said Barbara Collins, a single mother who was recently fired after six years working at Walmart in Placerville, CA. “If we are not reinstated and real changes to improve jobs are not made by Labor Day, we will be back to protest at Walmart stores across the country. This is just the beginning.”
With hundreds of DC-area residents supporting them, the group rallied outside Walmart’s DC offices to try to get the company to publicly commit to increasing wages and end the aggressive retaliation that workers have been facing. With no response from company representatives, a group of workers are risking arrest for refusing to leave with their concerns unaddressed. Drawing on the civil rights movement for inspiration, the workers acknowledged Americans throughout history who used non-violent civil disobedience to make their voices heard when all else has failed.
“It shouldn’t have to come to this. As the largest company in America, Walmart should be creating good jobs for our country without protest or question,” said Nikki Lewis of Jobs with Justice in DC.
Walmart wages have been hotly debated nationwide, especially in DC, where the City Council recently passed a bill requiring large, profitable retailers to pay a minimum hourly wage of $12.50 an hour. While Walmart claims that the company pays more than that, outside sources report starting wages that are less than $9 an hour.
“With $16 billion in profits for the company and the wealth of 42% of American families combined in the pockets of the Walton family, Walmart can and must do more to create good jobs,” said Heidi Shierholz, economist at the Economic Policy Institute. “With its size and wealth, Walmart could be making an impact in strengthening and growing our middle class, but instead, Walmart workers are forced to rely on food stamps and other public supports to cover the basics.”
Calling for Walmart to publicly commit to paying full-time work at a minimum rate of $25,000 a year, OUR Walmart’s concerns are gaining support from workers, community leaders and shareholders. At this year’s annual shareholder meeting, OUR Walmart member Janet Sparks, joined by 100 striking workers from across the country, spoke about the insufficient hours, low wages and short-staffing that are hurting customer service at stores. Additionally, Walmart employees are some of the main recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and government support.
But rather than provide good jobs that American workers need and deserve, Walmart is spending its time and money trying to deny a decent day’s pay and trying to silence workers who are standing up with their co-workers to live better. Since strikes in June, Walmart has illegally disciplined nearly 80 workers, including 20 worker-leaders who have been fired.
“We’ve had enough of Walmart’s lip-service and lies,” said Lucas Handy of Fort Dodge, IA. “We need full-time hours, we need better wages, and we need our jobs back with the promise that the retaliation against OUR Walmart will stop.”
OUR Walmart, or Organization United for Respect at Walmart, formed just two years ago, when 100 Walmart associates came together to voice their concerns about the company. With thousands of members across the country, the group organized the first strikes in company history last year and helped bring more than 30,000 supporters to protest at stores on Black Friday in 2012.
Follow the conversation and see photos at @ChangeWalmart, #WalmartStrikers and ChangeWalmart.org/Tumblr