This week, President Obama paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act during a visit to the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin and paved the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In spite of the advances we have made over the last 50 years—including the election of our first African American president—the fight for social and economic justice continues. Our economy’s increasing reliance on low-wage, part-time work has widened the gap between the rich and poor, and the desperation of so many Americans who just need a job has emboldened many businesses to exploit their workers, cut wages and benefits, and punish those who speak out and try to better their lives.
In the retail sector alone, which is one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States and an important employer of minorities and women, too many workers are struggling to survive in low-wage, part-time jobs with little to no benefits. That’s why it’s critically important that employers in the retail sector lead the way in providing good jobs with benefits so that workers in this growing industry can make enough to support their families and contribute to their local economies and communities. Walmart—the world’s largest retailer—is a good place to start.
As the largest private employer in the country, Walmart’s low-wage, part-time business model has had a detrimental impact on our country’s labor, business, and employment climate. The retail giant’s drive to lower wages has influenced other retailers to do the same and lowered the standard of living for millions of retail workers across the country.
The need to mobilize for social and economic equality has never been stronger, and the UFCW is honored to carry on the work of President Johnson and civil rights leaders by fighting for social and economic justice in the retail industry and in our communities.