In a clear indication of mounting frustration with Walmart and the Walton family’s failure to respect workers’ rights, Walmart workers in California have gone on strike. Today, Los Angeles Walmart workers participated in their boldest action to date: the first-ever sit-down strike at a Walmart store.
Workers entered the store at approximately 11 a.m. and refused to move, holding a sit-in near cash registers and racks at the store for a 2-hour period. Following the sit-down strike, the group headed to another Los Angeles-area store, where they held yet another sit-down strike inside, accompanied by a rally outside.
Workers and their supporters took over the intersection near the Walmart, refusing to leave until they were arrested and removed from the intersection. Approximately 25 were arrested.
Sit-down strikes and protests have a long history as a catalyst for change in the struggle for a better workplace and civil rights.
Workers have carried out sit-down strikes dating as far back as 1906, when 3,000 General Electric workers sat down on the job to protest the unfair firing of their coworkers. In 1937, a handful of fearless Woolworth women started a nationwide movement for better working conditions and living wages when they sat down in their Detroit store and decided not to give up until they won the treatment they deserved. These women inspired and influenced Americans across the country. About twenty years later, 4 college students in Greensboro, North Carolina would sit down at a white-only Woolworth’s lunch counter, starting a wave of sit-ins that eventually helped dismantle segregation in the Jim Crow South.
Woolworth has already been called the Walmart of its day. Now, in 2014, Walmart workers decided that Walmart’s most recent acts of retaliation warranted this historic action and wanted to tell the Walton family who owns Walmart that things must change.
Over the last year, Walmart workers have pressured Walmart to change its pregnancy policy, provide access to more hours and most recently to pledge to phase out its minimum wage jobs. However, when workers’ calls for change started to gain momentum, Walmart struck back. They retaliated against vocal workers standing up for better wages and worker conditions.
Among those fired for standing up was Rosa Valenzuela, who was terminated just a month short of her 20-year anniversary with the company. After giving Walmart nearly two decades of her life, the company created excuses to discipline the sixty-seven year old, even citing an incident where she was said to have clocked out 2 minutes late.
“I worked for Walmart for nearly 20 years and they fired me for speaking up for all of our rights. I was a stone in their shoe, so they got rid of me. I feel betrayed,” Rosa said. “I’m out here today so Walmart knows that we won’t be scared into silence. We’re going to keep standing up for our rights until they start to respect us.”
Unfortunately, Rosa’s story is just one of the many incidents of retaliation against workers who dare to risk the small bit of security they have for a better Walmart.
Today in Los Angeles, California, workers sent a clear message to Walmart: retaliation against workers who stand up in the fight for $15, full time and respect in the workplace will not be tolerated.
“I’m striking today for workers like Evelin, Victoria, Rosa, Maria Elena, Graciela who Walmart retaliated against for standing up for change,” said Paramount Walmart worker Martha Sellers. “Walmart and the Waltons need to know that they can’t silence us all.”
You can support the #WalmartStrikers by visiting BlackFridayProtests.org.