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MCAW and UFCW OUTreach Respond to Walmart’s Silence on Bathroom Incident in Connecticut

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Last week, Making Change at Walmart (MCAW) and UFCW OUTreach issued the following statement in response to reports that a Connecticut woman, who had just donated her hair to a cancer charity, was harassed in a Walmart bathroom by someone who mistook her as transgender:

“Across the country, stores are proudly showing their support for the transgender community by either providing unisex bathrooms or by publicly announcing that transgender people are free to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Yet, Walmart has not followed suit. Their silence is not only callous, it is dangerous. It allows bigotry, like the incident in Connecticut, to get a free pass. As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart has a responsibility to make sure all customers and employees, no matter their race, sex, religion, sexuality, or gender identity, feel welcome and safe in their stores.”

West Plains Community Rallies Around Fired Walmart Worker

Walmart Rally in MO and Frank Swanson Walmart Rally in MO

On April 2, Frank Swanson, a Walmart cashier in West Plains, Missouri, who was 20 days shy of his 20th anniversary with Walmart, was terminated. At the time, Frank made $13.92/hour. Frank is 52 years-old, and suffered brain damage from an accident that took place when he was in 8th grade. He is also partially paralyzed on one side. He was eligible for disability payments when he turned 18, but he’s never received them. If you ask him why, he says he is able to work, so why shouldn’t he earn his money?

Frank is well-known at Walmart and in the town of West Plains for being a generous man who always helps out anyone who needs it. Former customers and members of the community tell stories about when Frank took money out of his own wallet to help someone pay for their groceries, or gave a hug to a woman fighting cancer, or helped them when their cart broke down in the store. Others know Frank because he regularly donates food, children’s clothes, and stuffed animals to people in need. He visits the town nursing home to see his elderly friends often.

“If you give people a hug, it reduces their blood pressure and they keep living, and keep coming back. They cut their nose off their face with this one because I was so good to customers,” said Frank, regarding why he liked to hug his Walmart customers.

Despite all this, Walmart fired Frank because they say he gave excessive price-matching discounts to customers, and because of the hugs. Frank says he asked permission before he hugged anyone, and often the hugs were initiated by his friends, his long-time customers.

“I know he kept a lot of people coming into Walmart who might not have,” said one West Plains resident.

Frank also took Walmart’s price-matching policy very seriously, and every week, studied up on competitor’s advertised prices. However, after management spoke to him about it, he only price-matched when a customer had evidence and brought up the competing price.

The West Plains community was so upset about Frank’s termination from Walmart thatthey organized a rally on Saturday morning, April 9, in the Walmart parking lot. Hundreds of people attended with signs that said “BE LIKE FRANK” and “WE LOVE YOU FRANK.” He greeted everyone with hugs, and before the event started, made sure there was enough water for everyone, and enough chairs for those who couldn’t stand up for very long. Many people who came to the rally stated that they would definitely stop shopping at Walmart in order to protest Frank’s firing.

Local Texans Who Were Illegally Fired Tell Walmart: Obey the Law

Walmart Action in Texas2Walmart Action in Texas

On March 24, two former Walmart workers, Colby Harris and Marc Bowers, joined labor leaders at the Lancaster, Texas, Walmart Supercenter (store #471) to protest Walmart’s illegal actions against striking workers. The group was also protesting Walmart’s appeal of an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling that said Walmart unlawfully retaliated against workers for participating in strikes. Both workers urged Walmart to drop its appeal.

The administrative law judge’s ruling states that Walmart must offer 16 former employees, including those in Texas, full reinstatement to their jobs along with back pay, and that Walmart must hold a meeting in 29 specific stores to inform employees of their right to strike and form a union.

Harris, a local Texas worker who Walmart fired for his participation in strikes in 2013, said, “I knew that Walmart firing me for speaking out was illegal, but to have a judge say it means everything. This ruling doesn’t just affect me and my former coworkers. It affects every Walmart worker who has been afraid to stand up for him or herself. This ruling is historic, and Walmart needs to adhere to it.”

Bowers, another Texas worker who was fired after striking, said, “I voiced my opinion about the injustices I was seeing at Walmart. That is something that is supposed to be protected by the law, and Walmart broke that law. Since I was illegally fired, I have struggled to find another full-time job. Walmart needs to do what is right, and what the judge says is right. They need to give me my job back and let other workers know that they are allowed to speak out.”

Mark York, executive secretary-treasurer of the Dallas AFL-CIO, also spoke at the action.

“I’ve personally stood with these brave Walmart workers in fighting for better treatment at work, and I will continue to stand with them as they fight for Walmart to abide by this ruling. The law is on their side. The Dallas community is on their side. Colby and Marc didn’t deserve to be fired for exercising their rights,” York said.