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UFCW and OUR Walmart Members Help Calif. Pass Paid Sick Day Legislation

OUR-Walmart-CA-Lobby-Day-297x300After intense lobbying from UFCW members and members of OUR Walmart, both houses of the California legislature have passed a bill guaranteeing workers up to three paid sick days a year.

The legislation includes part-time and temporary workers, making it one of the strongest in the nation. Home health care workers are exempted. Governor Jerry Brown has indicated he will sign the bill into law.

About 40 percent of California’s workforce is currently not eligible for paid sick days. Across the state, retail workers successfully made the case that no one should be forced to risk their job and their livelihood just because they get sick.

The United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee paid sick leave to workers. Late last year, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the FAMILY Act, a bill to create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program. House Republicans have refused to bring it up for a vote.

In the meantime, UFCW members, OUR Walmart, and their allies will continue to push for action at the state and local levels.

 

UFCW International President Joe Hansen Co-Authors OpEd About Dangers of Walmart’s Reach into Our Classrooms

NO-WALMART-12UFCW International President Joe Hansen and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten have teamed up in an Op-ed featured in the Huffington Post to warn about an epidemic that has been spreading across the country: the Walmart-ization of our schools and classrooms. Walmart, they say, wants classrooms to be run more like a business. But teachers and allies are fighting back.

Over the last month or so, Walmart has been plugging their “back-to-school” campaign, including a slew of materials touting teacher appreciation. But Joe and Randi point out that:

“Teachers–who routinely dig deep into their own pockets to pay for supplies and materials for their students–are grateful for appreciation in all its forms. They are understandably less pleased when half-hearted discounts come from a company with a terrible track record for respecting its own employees and are accompanied by a large-scale effort to dismantle our nation’s public education system and silence their voice. In fact, teachers are so offended by the so-called education reform agenda promoted by Wal-Mart’s owners, the Waltons, that one teacher recently launched a petition calling on his peers not to shop at Wal-Mart this back-to-school season. More than 5,000 teachers have already added their names to his pledge.

They explain further why many teachers are upset with the millions of dollars the Walton family is directing to “education”:

“Since 2000, the Walton Family Foundation has given more than $1 billion to destabilize public education–draining funds from students and closing neighborhood schools, and instead supporting corporate-style education policies in an attempt to bring Wal-Mart’s business model to classrooms across the country.”

The Waltons are even using their collective $148 billion to wage influence in communities where they don’t live, and don’t do any business. Joe and Randi tell us just what this influence can mean for schools in our major cities:

“In Chicago, the Waltons gave $500,000 to support the process that resulted in the closure of nearly 50 public schools in underserved communities. WalMart heir Alice Walton spent $2.25 million in 2012 alone to promote the charter and private school sectors in Georgia, Indiana and Washington–hundreds of miles from her current home state of Texas.”

In addition, the Walton’s have celebrated anti-teacher legislation, like the Vegara v. California decision which strips teachers of their ability to advocate for students without fear of retribution, and also put them in a negative public light. The Op-Ed also notes that “one [Walton] family member also contributed $250,000 to defeat a ballot measure that would have instituted public universal pre-K education for the state.”

But none of this is all too surprising when we examine how these action echoe Walmart’s business practices. Both union leaders reflect that, just like with its business, “all too often, Walmart fails to consult the communities it enters, drives out existing institutions and leaves those most vulnerable wondering how they’ll bridge the gap.”

Just six members of the Walton family–the majority owners of the company–have more wealth than 42 percent of American families combined, and despite being extremely profitable, and raking in almost $17 billion a year, “the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year.”

Randi and Joe also point out that Walmart’s notoriously low pay and erratic scheduling keep many of its employees and their families in poverty:

“Too many Walmart moms and dads struggle to put food on the table and pay for doctor visits. And many Walmart kids suffer because mom and dad don’t have reliable scheduling that gets them home in time for homework, dinner or bedtime reading.”

This poverty is known to be  one of the biggest factors affecting student achievement. That is why Joe and Randi say that, “the Waltons, who claim to have joined the education policy debate in order to provide a world-class education for all of America’s children, not only actively work against our nation’s public education system, but also contribute to the economic insecurity that keeps so many kids from getting the education they need and deserve.”

What the Walton’s actions never seem to address is that half of our kids in America’s public schools live below the poverty line. In fact, say Joe and Randi, as the largest private employer in the world, “WalMart chooses to keep the majority of its 1.3 million U.S. workers in poverty despite huge profits.”

They end the Op-Ed by concluding:

“If the Walton family is truly interested in helping every child achieve a high-quality education, they could begin by committing to pay their own workers a decent wage. Instead of spending their billions to wipe out our nation’s public school system, the Waltons could join the effort to reclaim the promise of public education in America–and ensure that we fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed by allowing their parents to succeed.”

That’s really what “teacher appreciation” is about. As Amber Rain Chandler, a teacher in New York, said to Wal-Mart: “Don’t discount the power of teachers.”

A Labor Day Message from Bill Fletcher, Chair of the Retail Justice Alliance

Originally posted on The Retail Justice Alliance

There is no company more responsible for creating and reinforcing the wealth gap through its low-wage, part-time business practices than Walmart, our country’s largest private employer.  At the company’s own admission, the majority of Walmart’s 1.4 million workers are paid less than $25,000 a year. That means that too many Walmart workers are struggling to cover the basic necessities like food and shelter and are forced to rely on taxpayer funded supports like food stamps to survive.

Walmart can afford to pay its workers more.  The company makes between $16 and $17 billion a year in profits, and just six members of the Walton Family—heirs to the Walmart empire—have more wealth than 42 percent of American families combined.

Labor Day is a perfect moment for Walmart to lead by example and help ease the economic and social unrest that is plaguing our country. The Retail Justice Alliance calls on Walmart to change the way it does business so that Walmart workers can support their families and contribute to their local communities and economies.