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Walmart Workers Join National 4/15 Protests

Together-we-riseThis Wednesday, Walmart workers with OUR Walmart will join with fast food strikers, home care providers, airport workers, adjunct professors and many others to stand up in the fight for $15 an hour.

“I’m proud to be part of a growing movement of moms and dads, brothers and sisters like me, who are standing up for better jobs. A company like Walmart, which brings in $16 billion in annual profits, can afford to provide the pay and hours that our families need,” said Lisa Pietro, a two-year Walmart employee from Winter Haven, Florida who made just $8.95 an hour before the recent increase to a minimum of $9 an hour. “The raise we just won at Walmart shows what working people can accomplish when we stand together. I’m excited about what we’ll be able to do when we all come together to stand up and fight for $15 an hour.”

Nationwide, workers and supporters are planning rallies, marches and direct action in the streets, in front of stores like Walmart and on campuses across the country. These massive mobilizations are expected to draw some 100,000 protesters with workers from nearly every low-wage sector and will highlight the importance of holding companies like Walmart and McDonald’s accountable.

On April 15th, Walmart workers will renew their calls for $15 an hour and access to consistent, full-time schedules. Last October, Walmart workers launched a petition for $15 an hour and access to consistent, full-time schedules. The petition spread like wildfire, garnering signatures from more than half – 2,200 – of Walmart stores across the nation. Then, following the largest Black Friday protests and strikes ever, Walmart announced that it would raise wages for 500,000 U.S. workers. This modest increase, especially with no guarantee that they’ll get the hours they need, means many are still forced to rely on government assistance programs like food stamps to get by.

If you would like to join Walmart workers at the #Fightfor15 protests, visit April15.org to find an event near you.

 

Tell Walmart: Help Striking Farm Workers

This post was written by our friends at UFW.

On March 17th, thousands of farm workers toiling in the San Quintín Valley—an export oriented agricultural region in Baja California Norte—walked off their jobs in protest of low wages, poor working conditions, and alleged violations of Mexican labor law. Nearly three weeks later, key demands made by leaders of the work stoppage have been largely unmet. At issue to date is an across the board wage floor of 200 pesos per day (about $13.00 USD, brought down from an initial demand of 300 pesos per day, or about $20.00 USD) and an overhaul of existing union contracts leaders claim serve employers’ interest more than those of workers.

Hundreds of farms in the valley export millions of tons of fresh produce each year to major US retailers.[1] While US consumers enjoy the berries, cucumbers, peas, and tomatoes produced in the region, farm workers who live and labor there say that with average wages currently running at about $7.00 to $8.00 USD per day, they are unable to meet their basic needs.

AdeliaAdelia Hernandez Zamora, who says she has worked at many different agricultural companies in her 14 years living in the San Quintín valley, shared the following:

“Supposedly the product we produce here for the other side is sold in dollars. We are paid in Mexican pesos. With the money we make, we are unable to meet [our needs]. We have kids in school. We pay rent… A kilo of meat costs 120 pesos. A carton of eggs is at 80 pesos. A kilo of tortillas is at 14 pesos. Water is at 14 pesos. We do not have plumbing in our homes and pay for water.”

ElizElizabeth Valenzuela Chavez is a single mother who works for Rancho Magaña. She says, “Food prices have gone up. Gas has gone up. What about our wages?”

Representatives for the region’s growers have claimed that the 200 peso daily rate the strike leaders are demanding would cripple the local economy.[2] Workers claim that that rate is the minimum required to meet basic needs in the wake of peso devaluation impacting local prices. This is a sign of dysfunction. But both identifying where the dysfunction is occurring and how to correct it is a responsibility that goes beyond the negotiation that took place between workers and their employers in San Quintín.

Reports of low wages and poor conditions in San Quintín follow a series of documented labor abuses in other export ag producing regions in Mexico. In response to those earlier reports, the largest buyer of Mexican produce, Walmart—an industry giant —said to the LA Times on February 12 that it would be stepping up its efforts in ensuring social responsibility in its supply chain. [3] This latest unrest presents an opportunity for consumers to let the retail giant know we are expecting them to come good on this commitment with the utmost urgency. Walmart can set a new standard for other players in the fresh produce business.

Join us and more than 25,000 other supporters in calling on Walmart and other leaders in the grocery retail industry hold powerful agribusiness companies such as Driscoll accountable by signing the petition at http://action.ufw.org/baja.

[1] http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-baja-farmworkers-20150320-story.html#page=1

[2] http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-baja-farmworkers-20150330-story.html

[3] http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-me-farm-labor-20150213-story.html#page=1

Women’s History Month: From Woolworth’s to Walmart, the Fight for Workplace Justice Continues

The last few days of Women’s History Month present us with an opportunity to pay tribute to women past and present who have taken a stand against the biggest employers in our country—Woolworth’s and Walmart—in the continued fight for social and economic justice.

Seventy-eight years ago during the Great Depression, over 100 female employees of Woolworth’s in downtown Detroit began a sit-down strike at their store for better workplace conditions.  At that time, Woolworth’s was the Walmart of its day, with more than 2,000 stores in the U.S., Canada, Cuba, Britain and Germany, and over 65,000 employees who were mostly young women. As the largest retailer in the country, Woolworth’s was well known for its low wages, long hours and anti-union practices.

On February 27, 1937, the women who worked the counters, cash registers and storerooms at the Woolworth’s store in Detroit decided that a sit-down strike was a way to draw attention to their fight for better wages, hours and overtime pay.  Previous sit-down strikes organized by rubber workers in Ohio and autoworkers in Michigan had been successful and served as a source of inspiration for the women.  The sit-down worked and the national media flocked to Detroit and compared the modest demands of the Woolworth’s women to the opulent lifestyle of Barbara Hutton, heiress to the Woolworth empire and, at the time, one of the richest women in the world.

The sit-down strike had support from the hotel and restaurant employees unions, as well as from labor leaders, including the head of the UAW.  When strikers shut down a second Woolworth’s store in Detroit and threatened to shut down all 40 stores in the area, support for the strikers spread throughout the country, including in New York City, where the retail clerks’ union launched a solidarity campaign. The strike also influenced Woolworth’s competitors to raise wages to head off similar sit-down strikes at their own stores. The strike ended on March 5, when Woolworth’s agreed to the workers’ demands, including a union contract for the 40 Woolworth’s stores in Detroit.

Today, Walmart is our country’s largest private employer, and it’s low-wage, part-time business practices have put a financial strain on too many Walmart women and their families.  Like the courageous women of Woolworth’s, OUR Walmart members have used the sit-down strike to protest Walmart’s disrespect of their rights.  OUR Walmart members have also compared the enormous wealth of the Walton Family, heirs to the Walmart empire, to their reasonable call for $15 an hour and access to full-time hours. While members of OUR Walmart have had several victories, such as better workplace policies for pregnant women through the “Respect the Bump” campaign and the recent announcement by Walmart that it would raise wages for 500,000 hourly associates, the fight for decent wages and hours continues.

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Some of the 100 female Woolworth workers who participated in a sit-down strike (top) and a recent photo of Walmart workers speaking out to stop retaliation in their workplace.

From the Woolworth’s strike of 1937 to the OUR Walmart member movement, these workers have shown that by sticking together, positive change is possible even at our country’s largest and most powerful employers.