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March 27, 2014

Women’s History Month: UFCW Celebrates the Life of Addie Wyatt

addie wyatt twoAddie Loraine Cameron, better known as Addie L. Wyatt (1924 –2012), was born in Mississippi and moved to Chicago with her family in 1930.  When she was 17 years old, she married Claude S. Wyatt, Jr.

She began working in the meatpacking industry in 1941.  Although she applied for a job as a typist for Armour and Company, African American women were barred from holding clerical positions and she was sent to the canning department to pack stew in cans for the army. Due to a contract between Armour and the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA), she earned more working on the packinghouse floor canning stew than she would have made working as a typist, and joined the UPWA after learning that the union did not discriminate against its members.

In 1953, she was elected vice president of UPWA Local 56. In 1954, she became the first woman president of the local, and was soon tapped to serve as an international representative. She held this position through the 1968 merger of UPWA and the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen until 1974, when she became director of the newly formed Women’s Affairs Department. In 1970s, she became the first female international vice president in the history of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen and later served as director of its Human Rights and Women’s Affairs and Civil Rights Departments. She served as the first female African American international vice president of the UFCW after Amalgamated and the Retail Clerks International Union merged in 1979.

She and her husband were ordained ministers and founded the Vernon Park Church of God in Chicago.  She played an integral role in the civil rights movement, and joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in major civil rights marches, including the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and the demonstration in Chicago. She was one of the founders of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the country’s only national organization for union women. She was also a founding member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the National Organization of Women.

In 1984, Addie Wyatt retired from the labor movement as one of its highest ranked and most prominent African American and female officials. In honor of her work, she was named one of Time magazine′s Women of the Year in 1975, and one of Ebony magazine′s 100 most influential black Americans from 1980 to 1984. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists established the Addie L. Wyatt Award in 1987. She was inducted into the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor in 2012.

March 11, 2014

UFCW Celebrates Women’s History Month

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe month of March marks Women’s History Month and provides us with an opportunity to honor the many women who have who have fought for social and economic justice in the workplace.

From Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, the “grandmother of all agitators,” to Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet as Secretary of Labor, to Dolores Huerta, co-founder of  the National Farm Workers Association, to Addie Wyatt, the first African-American woman elected international vice president of a major labor union, to the brave women of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), women in the labor movement have defied convention and taken the lead in fighting for workers’ rights.

Throughout out the month of March, the UFCW will the highlight the lives of these remarkable women who fought for fair wages, dignity in the workplace and the freedom to organize in spite of considerable barriers, and honor their significant contributions to the labor movement.

February 7, 2014

Black History Month Member Spotlight: Mike Dillard

For this week’s member spotlight, we chatted with Local 75 member and steward Mike Dillard. Mike has worked at Kroger stores in Cincinnati, Ohio and in nearby Kentucky for 25 years now, and has seen how being a union member truly makes a difference in the workplace. Today, he is an assistant meat manager.

In honor of Black History Month, he also shared with us some stories of his his grandfather and father, who lived during the height of the civil rights movement.

Local 75 member and steward Mike Dillard

Local 75 member and steward Mike Dillard

His father, a retired one star general and doctor, was the second black general in Ohio, and was a participant in several marches for equality in the 60’s. His grandfather, Mike tells us, was a doctor during World War I. However, when Mike’s grandfather Charles served during the war in the army, they refused to recognize his M.D., and made him scrub latrines instead. Although Mike remembers this story of his grandfather’s with sadness, he notes that he went on to later found a radiology center at the University of Michigan, with pride.

Mike also shares that he recently discovered that he and his family are direct descendants of a unit in the Civil War called the Black Brigade. Mike explains that during the Civil War, many African Americans living in Kentucky moved slightly further north into Ohio because it was less hostile towards them, and to escape the Confederacy which had moved up into Kentucky. When the confederates were on the verge of attacking the Cincinnati area, Union troops began taking black men against their will and put them to work to fortify the city and build trenches. But upon hearing this, one of the Union generals was outraged that these men had been forced to work, and demanded their release and an apology. Once the group of African American men returned to their homes, they were then asked if they would be willing to volunteer their time helping build defenses and fortifications for the city. Despite the previous gross violation of their human rights–being made to work against their will–nearly 1,000 African American men from the area agreed to help the Union troops. This group of men was dubbed the Black brigade, and became the first of many such groups to form throughout the country–building bridges and trenches, hauling cannons, and assisting the cause in many other ways. Mike notes that thanks to the help of this Black Brigade, the Confederacy was effectively kept out of Ohio and they saw no bloodshed.  There is even a memorial statue in a nearby park that commemorates the group, Mike says.

Unfortunately, Mike has experienced some conflict in his own experiences too, having dealt with a verbally and at one point physically abusive manager for a time. Thankfully, being a union member meant that Mike had the support he needed to get out of the situation. Mike says he tries to use what he has learned as a union worker, as well as his family’s rich history dealing with fighting for civil rights, to help his fellow union members.

“I’m a nice guy and I try to keep an open mind and good rapport with managers and my fellow associates,” say Mike. When Mike tells us that it is “better to get more bees with honey than it is with vinegar”, we are reminded of the teachings and actions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin, both Civil Rights leaders who valued peaceful protest rather than violence.

As Mike reflects, he notes that the fight for equal civil rights and the fight for equal workers rights often have the same goal. When telling someone about the union at work, Mike explains that “you have a stronger voice with more people, just like with civil rights, you know if you have one person yellin’, you’re not going to be heard as much as 10,000 people yelling” for the same cause. “With both the union and with the civil rights movement, you have solidarity. It’s about being fair, and everyone having the rights that they should have.”

Do you have a story to share about being a union member, or about participating in the civil rights movement? Let us know here!

 

February 3, 2014

This Black History Month, We Honor Bayard Rustin

photo credit: jrcla.org

photo credit: jrcla.org

February once again marks the beginning of Black History Month–a time to remember and celebrate the rich history of African Americans and the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement.

One of the greatest moments of the Civil Rights era was the March on Washington in 1963–one of the largest non-violent protests to ever occur in America. The March on Washington brought thousands of people of all races together, in the name of equal rights for everyone–whether they were black or white, rich or poor, Muslim or Christian. Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. made one of his most inspiring and famous speeches at the march, which culminated on the National mall.

But history has often overlooked the man who was the driving force behind this monumental event–a man named Bayard Rustin. Rustin was the one who organized the march, bringing methods used by Gandhi as well as the Quaker religion to Washington to ensure peace, but also impact. It was Rustin who helped shape Dr. King into the iconic symbol of peace he is remembered as.

As a young adult, Rustin worked with many kinds of people who influenced his activism, including ministers and labor organizers. During World War II, Rustin fought against racial discrimination in war-related hiring, and was later jailed for two years after refusing to enter the draft. Then, after protesting segregated transit systems, he was sentenced to work on a chain gang for several weeks.

Despite being punished for his beliefs, Rustin continued to work towards changing things for the better. In 1953, Bayard Rustin arrived in Montgomery, Alabama to partake in the famous bus boycott that kicked off after Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat on the bus for a white man. The boycott brought many civil rights leaders to the area, including a young Dr. Martin Luther King, who had not yet embraced non-violence. But Rustin taught many who were partaking in the boycott how Gandhi had used peaceful tactics to bring change in India, and people saw the importance of these tactics, and began to embrace them, focusing on direct protest.

Rustin was also a champion of workers rights. In 1965, Rustin and his mentor A. Philip Randolph co-founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a labor organization for African-American trade union members.

Although Bayard Rustin was a tireless activist, his life achievements are unknown to many, and he has even been called the “lost prophet” of the civil rights movement. This is largely because not only was Rustin silenced and threatened like many others were for being a black man speaking out for equal rights, but also because he was openly gay in a time when homophobia and bigotry was rampant. Rustin continued his life as an openly gay man, even after being incarcerated for it, and is seen as a champion of the LGBT movement still today. Despite being beaten, arrested, jailed, and fired from various leadership positions, Rustin overcame and made a huge impact on the civil and economic rights movements.

America has a long way to go before Rustin’s dreams of equal human rights for all are achieved, but without him, we perhaps would not be where we are today. Today, we have a black president, more women in leadership positions, and more of legislation in the states overturning old and outdated laws barring gay couples from marrying. These are just a few examples of the progress our country has made since Rustin’s time, and working people will continue to work so that ALL people have equal rights–at work and at home.

 

November 7, 2013

Walmart Workers, Community Supporters Announce Increase in Activity, Support for Better Jobs, End to Illegal Retaliation

Workers Launch Petition to President Obama, Online Portal to Sign-Up for Community Support

L.A. Workers Begin Second Day of Strike, Community Members Vow to Commit Largest Civil Disobedience in Company History

LOS ANGELES – As Black Friday approaches, Walmart workers are standing up to the country’s largest employer – even in the face of widespread illegal retaliation against them.  Workers and community supporters announced today increased activity and calls for change, launching a petition to President Obama and unveiling an online portal that lets associates sign-up for community support. Workers are part of the national organization OUR Walmart, which is calling on the company to use its $17 billion in profits to pay a minimum of $25,000 a year for full time work and to end its illegal retaliation against its workers.

More than 100 unfair labor practice allegations have been filed against Walmart with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for illegal firings and disciplinary actions against workers who have participated in legally protected strikes and to deter them from speaking out.

Walmart workers demonstrateDuring a press call as a two-day strike and civil disobedience is underway in Los Angeles, workers, community supporters and economic policy experts outlined the growing nationwide movement to demand Walmart end illegal retaliation and improve jobs. On the call, Anthony Goytia, one of many L.A.-based Walmart workers taking part in the two-day strike, discussed why he is risking his job to end the retaliation that Walmart workers face when speaking out.

“I know that I may be fired for speaking out today, but Walmart executives and the country need to hear about what’s really going on at our largest employer,” said Goytia. “I’m on strike today because Walmart’s retaliation against workers is illegal and it’s wrong.  We won’t be silenced.  Change at Walmart is too important to our families, our co-workers and our country.”

Barbara Gertz, a five-year Walmart employee from Colorado, pointed to a new website, www.associatevoices.com, which allows associates to step forward with their stories about the reality of working at Walmart and ask customers and community members to support them by holding Black Friday events at their stores. In less than 24 hours after beginning to promote the site, requests from associates across the country have poured in. Already, workers in more than 90 cities have requested a Black Friday rally at their store.

“Associatevoices.org provides a space for associates to raise their concerns and see that they are not alone. OUR Walmart and our supporters are standing up for 1.3 million associates in this country who aren’t getting the hours they need and are nervous about Walmart’s aggressive retaliation,” said Gertz. “The fact that the website has taken off as it has, in such a short period, is a clear sign: whether online or on the picket line, our concerns are widespread and our voices and support are only growing louder and stronger.”

Workers, supported by various organizations, also announced the launch of a petition calling on President Obama to meet with courageous workers risking their jobs by protesting against Walmart. Inspired by the activism of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream of good jobs and freedom, workers like Charmaine Givens-Thomas noted that Walmart’s low-wage business model, erratic scheduling and illegal retaliation hold America back from realizing Dr. King’s dream.

“As a 60-year-old African American woman who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., I want to promise my grandchildren that they will have a brighter future than I had. I can’t do that,” said Givens-Thomas in the petition. “More and more of us are struggling to nourish our children and pay our bills. It’s time the president met with Walmart workers like me who are standing up to Walmart and hear about the reality of scraping by on Main Street.”

The call took place as more than 80 community leaders and clergy members prepared to join workers at a rally at the Chinatown Walmart, in what is slated to be the largest-ever act of civil disobedience against the mega-retailer. Dozens, including Rev. Dr. Sarah Halverson, pastor at Fairview Community Church, are prepared to be arrested in response to Walmart’s illegal retaliation and low wages.

“I stand in solidarity with the brave Walmart workers who have walked out and gone on strike as well as those who have been intimidated, fearful they’ll lose their jobs if they speak up,” said Rev. Dr. Halverson. “They are not alone for they stand with thousands of clergy and interfaith communities across the country as we pray for their strength and find inspiration in their actions. I am thankful for these workers and I pray that Walmart will respect its employees and show them the dignity they deserve with fair pay and a commitment to refrain from intimidation.”

Recently, Walmart US CEO Bill Simon disclosed in a presentation that 475,000 Walmart workers are paid more than $25,000 a year; meaning that as many as 825,000 Walmart workers are paid less.

Throughout much of the recovery to date, the vast majority of jobs being created pay low wages, according to research by the National Employment Law Project. To make matters worse, lower-wage and middle-wage jobs have seen significantly larger declines in their real wages during the recovery than higher-wage occupations, a separate report by NELP shows. Another study shows that improving retail wages to a minimum of $25,000 would lift tens of thousands of families out of poverty, add to economic growth, increase Walmart’s retail sales and create more than 100,000 new jobs.

“The research on raising retail wages is clear – employers benefit from taking the high road, workers and families spend the additional money in their pockets and our economy as a whole strengthens,” said Jack Temple, policy analyst at NELP. “Walmart has a choice. It can take steps to improve the lives of its workers, customers and economy, or continue to force U.S. taxpayers to bankroll its low-wage business model.”

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For more information on Black Friday protests, photos and live-streams of events, visit www.BlackFridayProtests.org and follow the conversation and see photos at @ChangeWalmart, #WalmartStrikers and changewalmart.tumblr.com.

 LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees. 

 

August 23, 2013

The March on Washington: 50 years Later, the Fight for Social and Economic Equality Continues

LewisDr-KingThis weekend, members and supporters of the Retail Justice Alliance will be joining our brothers and sisters from across the country to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  The 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech, was organized largely by civil rights and labor leader A. Philip Randolph and other black labor leaders to promote freedom, economic equality and jobs, and paved the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 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.  In the retail sector alone, too many workers are struggling to survive in low-wage jobs with little to no benefits and our economy’s increasing reliance on low-wage, part-time work has widened the gap between the rich and poor. The assault on workers’ rights continues to persist, and in many cases, retail workers who want to stick together to bargain for better wages and benefits are threatened, intimidated and sometimes fired by their employers.

The need to mobilize for freedom, jobs and equality has never been stronger, and the Retail Justice Alliance is honored to carry on the work of the 1963 activists by fighting for social and economic justice in the retail industry and in our communities.

August 16, 2013

Statement by the UFCW Regarding the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

UFCWnewsWashington, D.C. – The following is a statement issued by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union regarding the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington:

“The UFCW is proud to stand with our brothers and sisters from across the country to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Fifty years ago on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Organized largely by A. Philip Randolph and black labor to promote freedom, economic equality and jobs, the March on Washington was a defining moment for the civil rights movement—spurring the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“In spite of the advances we have made since the March on Washington 50 years ago—including the election of our first African American president—the dream of freedom, economic equality and jobs has not been realized. The Great Recession has widened the gap between the rich and poor, and African American and Latino communities, in particular, have been hit the hardest by the economic downturn.  These and other communities have also been the targets of voter suppression, and the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down key parts of the Voting Rights Act will undermine voting rights in future elections.

“The need to mobilize for freedom, jobs and equality has never been stronger, and the UFCW is honored to continue the work of the 1963 activists by fighting for social and economic justice in the workplace and in our communities.”

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Below, please find details of the Anniversary Commemoration Event:

The Fight for Social and Economic Justice Continues

Fifty years ago on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  The March on Washington was a defining moment for the civil rights movement and on Saturday, August 24, UFCW members and other progressive groups will commemorate the 50th anniversary of that groundbreaking event.

Event Details:

Date: Saturday, August 24, 2013

Time: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. We will meet at the Lincoln Memorial at 8 a.m. The program begins at 9 a.m. and the march will take place from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Location: The Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington, D.C.

 

For additional information about various events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, please visit http://www.thekingcenter.org/

 

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, http://www.ufcw.org/, or join our online community at http://www.facebook.com/ufcwinternational and https://twitter.com/UFCW

December 14, 2012

Walmart Worker Protests Spread Globally

Workers in 10 Countries Call for an End to the Silencing of Workers at Walmart

OUR Walmart and Community Supporters Commit to Continued Protests in 2013 

Follow the conversation and see photos on Twitter: #WalmartStrikers and @ForRespect and @ChangeWalmart

MIAMI—US Walmart workers were joined by Walmart workers in nine countries on Friday to call for an end to Walmart’s attempts to silence workers for speaking out for changes at the world’s largest employer.  As Walmart workers and community supporters marched in front of a Walmart store in Miami, workers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Zambia and India held their own rallies, marches, and other actions at Walmart and Walmart subsidiary stores.  During the protests, workers cited the negative impacts that the silencing is having on their families, the economy and the company’s bottom-line.  

At the protests across the globe, workers held a moment of silence to honor the victims of the factory fire in Bangladesh that tragically claimed the lives of 112 workers. Recent reports show that Walmart “played a leading role in blocking an effort” to improve electrical and fire safety systems in factories in the country.

“Walmart must stop its attempts to silence those who speak out.  We are standing up for what is right for our families and the global economy,” said Elaine Rozie, an OUR Walmart member from the Hialeah store in Miami Gardens, Fl.  Rozie is a seven-year associate who despite works full-time at Walmart still has to depend on public assistance to make ends meet. “As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart should be setting a standard for good, safe jobs. The benefits of having steady, well-trained workers in stores and along the supply chain will help Walmart improve customer service ratings and its reputation, which is good business.”

“We are inspired by OUR Walmart members who are standing up for a better future for all of our families,” said Louisa Plaatjies, a worker from South Africa. In October, workers from seven countries – where workers all have union representation – launched the UNI Walmart Global Union Alliance to fight for fairness, decent working conditions, and the fundamental human right of freedom of association.  “We are will continue to stand up with our brothers and sisters in the United States until Walmart starts listening to the workers that keep the store running.”

The global protests held today build on the ongoing calls for change at Walmart. In November, community members and Walmart workers held more than 1,000 demonstrations, including strikes in 100 cities, during the Black Friday shopping rush in protest of the company’s illegal attempts to silence workers for speaking out about the company’s manipulation of hours and benefits, efforts to try to keep people from working full-time and its discrimination against women and people of color.  The Black Friday strike wave came a little more than a month after OUR Walmart leaders held the first-ever strikes against the mega-retailer. In just one year, OUR Walmart has grown from a group of 100 Walmart workers to an army of thousands of Associates across 43 states.

“The Walmart workers may come from different cultures and continents but they are united in their opposition to Walmart’s cynical and systematic squeezing of its employees to maximize profit, be it the US dollar, the South African rand, the Indian rupee, the Argentine peso or any other currency,” said the International UNI Global Union General Secretary, Philip Jennings. “Walmart has gone too far. US Walmart workers have had enough and they are fighting back as we saw on Black Friday and every day since. The Alliance is standing with them not just in solidarity but in strength and in action.”

Workers like Jesus Vargas, who have been illegally fired, targeted by management or other retaliation for speaking out, are also raising their voices.  More than 30 federal charges against Walmart have already been filed, with another 60 allegations against Walmart’s illegal threats currently under investigation.

“Walmart, we will not be silenced,” Vargas said. Vargas, who was unjustly fired for speaking out at his store in California, has filed a federal charge against Walmart. “We are coming together to be heard and to create good jobs that workers in America and across the globe need.”

With so many Americans struggling to make ends meet and Walmart taking in $16 billion in profits and compensating its executives $10 million each, workers and community leaders have been calling on Walmart and Chairman Rob Walton to address the wage gap the company is creating.  At the same time frontline Walmart workers are facing financial hardships, the Walton Family – heirs to the Walmart fortune – are the richest family in the country with more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families combined.

Workers’ concerns about wages and staffing have been affirmed by newly uncovered company pay-plans exposed by the Huffington Post, recent poor sales reports and a new study on wage trends in the retail industry. Huffington Post uncovered what reporters call “a rigid pay structure for hourly employees that makes it difficult for most to rise much beyond poverty-level wages.”  Meanwhile, last week’s sales reports show that understaffing, which affects workers’ scheduling and take-home pay, is also having an impact on company sales. Last week’s sales report showed that Walmart’s comp store sales are about half what competitors like Target reported in the same quarter, continuing a pattern of underperformance by the world’s largest retailer.

As workers and community supporters call for changes at Walmart, a new report by the national public policy center Demos, shows that better jobs at Walmart and other large retailers would have an impact on our economy. A wage floor equivalent of $25,000 per year for a full-time, year-round employee for retailers with more than 1000 employees would lift 1.5 million retail workers and their families out of poverty or near poverty, add to economic growth, increase retail sales and create more than 100,000 new jobs. The findings in the study prove there is a flaw in the conventional thinking by companies like Walmart that profits, low prices, and decent wages cannot coexist.

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Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), Making Change at Walmart is a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, community organizations, women’s advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country.

 

November 20, 2012

Strikes and Protests by Walmart Workers, Supporters Spread

Pico Rivera, California – Workers who set off wave of walkouts in October walk off their jobs once again; one of 1,000 protests in run-up to Black Friday

 As Black Friday nears, Walmart workers and community supporters are beginning 1,000 nationwide non-violent protests leading up to and on Black Friday, including strikes, rallies, flash mobs, direct action and other efforts to inform customers about the illegal actions that Walmart has been taking against its workers.  As part of the protests, Walmart workers walked off the job Tuesday morning in Pico Rivera, just outside Los Angeles, in protest against the company’s attempts to silence workers who speak out for better jobs. In October, the workers in Pico Rivera were the first group of Walmart associates to go on strike in the company’s history.

Last week, the 1,000 protests kicked-off with warehouse workers from Southern California and Walmart workers from San Leandro, Calif., Seattle, and Dallas walking off the job. Workers in the Washington DC area joined them yesterday in going on strike.  Walmart workers from cities across the country have announced additional strikes in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Washington DC, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Minnesota in the upcoming days.

“We’re not trying to shut down business, we are supporting our co-workers who speak out for better working conditions,” said Yesenia Yaber, a two-year Walmart Associate in Chicago, Ill. “These Associates have been speaking out for changes that will help all Associates help our families and make Walmart stores better places for our customers to shop.  Yet, Walmart reacts by attempting to silence them. No one wants to strike, we want to work, but we can’t continue under Walmart’s threats and retaliation.”

Workers’ concerns about wages and staffing have been affirmed by newly uncovered company pay-plans exposed by the Huffington Post, poor sales reports and a new study on the retail industry.  Huffington Post uncovered what reporters call “a rigid pay structure for hourly employees that makes it difficult for most to rise much beyond poverty-level wages.”  Meanwhile, last week’s sales reports show that understaffing, which affects workers’ scheduling and take-home pay, is also having an impact on company sales. Last week’s sales report showed that Walmart’s comp store sales are about half what competitors like Target reported this quarter, continuing a pattern of underperformance by the world’s largest retailer.

“Walmart is doing everything in its power to attempt to silence those who speak out.  But nothing—not even this baseless unfair labor practice charge—will stop us from speaking out,” said Colby Harris, a Walmart associate from Lancaster, Texas, in response to Walmart’s frivolous unfair labor charge and the number of charges filed by workers against the company.  “Unfair labor is working full time and living in poverty. Unfair labor is seeing your health care premiums skyrocket year after year. Unfair labor is being denied the hours needed to support your family. Unfair labor is being punished for exercising your freedom of speech and association. Walmart workers know what unfair labor is—because we endure it every day. So until Walmart listens to our concerns, we will continue to speak out. We will continue to stand up when Walmart attempts to silence those who speak out. We will continue to demand respect.” 

As workers and community supporters call for changes at Walmart, a new report from the national public policy center Demos, shows that better jobs at Walmart and other large retailers would have an impact on our economy.  A wage floor equivalent of $25,000 per year for a full-time, year-round employee for retailers with more than 1000 employees would lift 1.5 million retail workers and their families out of poverty or near poverty, add to economic growth, increase retail sales and create over 100,000 new jobs. The findings in the study prove there is a flaw in the conventional thinking by companies like Walmart that profits, low prices and decent wages cannot co-exist.

“Walmart has forgotten about families,” said Larry Gross, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival in Los Angeles, Calif. “Thanksgiving day scheduling, poverty paychecks, and unaffordable healthcare are all evidence of Walmart’s disregard for the 1.4 million workers that keep its doors open and shelves stocked.  We should expect more from the country’s largest employer.”

Walmart workers have been speaking out about the company’s manipulation of hours and benefits, efforts to try to keep people from working full-time and their discrimination against women and people of color, but rather than listening to the concerns facing 1.4 million Walmart workers, Walmart has attempted to silence them. Some workers have also been speaking out about the early start of Black Friday sales – on Thanksgiving Day –which will keep many retail workers from being able to spend the holiday with their families.  Watch a video from Walmart workers on why they’re standing up or follow the conversation on Twitter at #WalmartStrikers.

With so many Americans struggling to make ends meet and Walmart taking in $16 billion in profits and compensating its executives $10 million each, workers and community leaders have been calling on Walmart and Chairman Rob Walton to address the wage gap the company is creating.  At the same time frontline Walmart workers are facing financial hardships, the Walton Family – heirs to the Walmart fortune – are the richest family in the country with more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families combined.

Countless civil rights, immigrant rights, women’s rights and religious groups, including Color of Change, National Alliance of Latino, African and Caribbean Communities, Interfaith Worker Justice, and the National Organization of Women, are organizing their members in support of Walmart workers.  Online, individuals have been adding support and planning protests on their own, starting new Facebook pages, groups and events.  Through the Corporate Action Network, activists are “adopting” stores where they can inform shoppers about the struggles that Walmart workers are facing.

In October, OUR Walmart leaders held the first-ever strikes against the mega-retailer.  At that time, workers walked off their jobs in more than 12 cities and with the support of national and local leaders, held protests at more than 200 stores. Since then, workers have walked off the job in Richmond, CA and Dallas, TX, and support for OUR Walmart, the associate organization calling for change, has continued to grow.

Striking warehouse workers, who move billions of dollars of merchandise for Walmart, joined the call to speak about the retaliation they have experienced for speaking out against unsafe working conditions, including extreme temperatures, broken and unsafe equipment and inadequate access to clean drinking water.  The workers from the Inland Empire, outside of Los Angeles, held a 15-day strike that included a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage for safe jobs in September.

Energy around the calls for Walmart to change its treatment of workers and communities has been building.  In just one year, OUR Walmart, the unique workers’ organization founded by Walmart Associates, has grown from a group of 100 Walmart workers to an army of thousands of Associates in hundreds of stores across 43 states. Together, OUR Walmart members have been leading the way in calling for an end to double standards that are hurting workers, communities and our economy.

The alleged Mexican bribery scandal, uncovered by the New York Times, has shined a light on the failure of internal controls within Walmart that extend to significant breaches of compliance in stores and along the company’s supply chain.  The company is facing yet another gender discrimination lawsuit on behalf of 100,000 women in California and in Tennessee, and a wage theft class action suit in Chicago. In the company’s warehousing system, in which Walmart has continually denied responsibility for the working conditions for tens of thousands of people who work for warehouses where they move billions of dollars of goods, workers are facing rampant wage theft and health and safety violations so extreme that they have led to an unprecedented $600,000 in fines.   The Department of Labor fined a Walmart seafood supplier for wage and hour violations, and Human Rights Watch has spoken out about the failures of controls in regulating suppliers overseas, including a seafood supplier in Thailand where trafficking and debt bondage were cited.

Financial investors are also joining the call for Walmart to create better checks and balances, transparency and accountability that will protect workers and communities and strengthen the company.  At the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Bentonville, OUR Walmart member Jackie Goebel brought a stadium full of shareholders to their feet applauding her call for an end to the short staffing that’s hurting workers and customer service.  Goebel was one of four Associate-shareholders who proposed a resolution calling for the reining in of executive pay. The resolution received unprecedented support from major pension funds that voted their shares against Walmart CEO and members of the board this June, amounting to a ten-fold increase and overall 1 in 3 shares not held by the Walton family against the company’s leadership.

These widespread problems have also thwarted Walmart’s plans for growth, particularly in urban markets.  Calling the company a “bad actor,” New York City mayoral candidates have all been outspoken in their opposition to Walmart entering the city without addressing labor and community relations’ problems.  This month, the city’s largest developer announced an agreement with a union-grocery store at a site that Walmart had hoped would be its first location in New York. In Los Angeles, mayoral candidates are refusing to accept campaign donations from the deep pockets of Walmart, and in Boston, Walmart was forced to suspend its expansion into the city after facing significant community opposition.

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Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, community organizations, women’s advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country. 

 

November 15, 2012

As Black Friday Approaches, Walmart Workers from Stores and Warehouses Begin to Strike

 1000-Store Protests Begin with Warehouse Workers from Southern California and Walmart Workers from Seattle and San Leandro Walking Off the Job

National Leaders, Local Activists Commit to Supporting Strikes, Protests and Online Actions

Washington, DC – As Black Friday approaches, Walmart workers and warehouse workers walked off the job Wednesday and Thursday in protest of the company’s attempts to silence workers who speak out for better jobs. Warehouse workers from Southern California walked off the job Wednesday morning; Walmart workers from San Leandro, California walked off the job Wednesday afternoon; and this morning, Walmart workers from Seattle joined them.

This afternoon, Walmart workers from cities across the country announced that these strikes are the first of 1000 protests, including more strikes, rallies and online actions, at Walmart stores leading up to and on Black Friday.  Workers announced upcoming strikes and protests in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Washington DC, as well as workers walking off the job in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Minnesota.  The group held off announcing the specific dates of the protest out of concern that Walmart would use it as an opportunity to try to silence the workers’ voices.

“No matter how hard we work, my husband and I can’t catch up on our bills,” said Charlene Fletcher, an OUR Walmart leader from Duarte, California.  Charlene and her husband Greg both work at Walmart. Greg has been there for six years, and Charlene began 2-1/2 years ago. They have two young children, ages 2 and 5.  “We just found out that we are both scheduled to work on Thanksgiving Day instead of being home with our kids.  It’s heartbreaking to miss the holiday with them, and it’s just one more way that Walmart is showing its disregard for our families. But when our co-workers speak out about problems like these, Walmart turns their schedules upside down, cuts their hours and even fires people. We’re going on strike for an end to Walmart’s attempts to silence its workers.”

The announcement call was hosted by OUR Walmart members: Charlene Fletcher, of Duarte (Los Angeles County), Calif., Sara Gilbert of Seattle, Wash., Colby Harris of Dallas, Tex., and Cayt Lawley in Arkansas. They were joined by David Garcia, a warehouse worker in Southern California, and Dan Schlademan, Director of the Making Change at Walmart campaign.

Walmart workers have been speaking out about the company’s manipulation of hours and benefits, efforts to try to keep people from working full-time and their discrimination against women and people of color, but rather than listening to the concerns facing 1.4 million Walmart workers, Walmart has attempted to silence them. Some workers have also been speaking out about the early start of Black Friday sales – on Thanksgiving Day –which will keep many retail workers from being able to spend the holiday with their families.  Watch a video from Walmart workers on why they’re standing up or follow the conversation on Twitter at #WalmartStrikers.

With so many Americans struggling to make ends meet and Walmart taking in $16 billion in profits and compensating its executives $10 million each, workers and community leaders have been calling on Walmart and Chairman Rob Walton to address the wage gap the company is creating.  At the same time frontline Walmart workers are facing financial hardships, the Walton Family – heirs to the Walmart fortune – are the richest family in the country with more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families combined.

National leaders, including Dr. Julianne Malveaux and Lyle “Butch” Wing from Rainbow PUSH, joined the call to share their support for the striking workers.  Countless civil rights, immigrant rights, women’s rights and religious groups, including Color of Change, National Alliance of Latino, African and Caribbean Communities, Interfaith Worker Justice, and the National Organization of Women, are organizing their members in support of Walmart workers.  Online, individuals have been adding support and planning protests on their own, starting new Facebook pages, groups and events.  Through the Corporate Action Network, activists are “adopting” stores where they can inform shoppers about the struggles that Walmart workers are facing.

“Walmart’s workers are dedicated to giving 100 percent to the jobs that they do,” said Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change. “The company must be as dedicated to its workers as it is to its profit margin.”

In October, OUR Walmart leaders held the first-ever strikes against the mega-retailer.  At that time, workers walked off their jobs in more than 12 cities and with the support of national and local leaders, held protests at more than 200 stores. Since then, workers have walked off the job in Richmond, CA and Dallas, TX, and support for OUR Walmart, the associate organization calling for change, has continued to grow.

Striking warehouse workers, who move billions of dollars of merchandise for Walmart, joined the call to speak about the retaliation they have experienced for speaking out against unsafe working conditions, including extreme temperatures, broken and unsafe equipment and inadequate access to clean drinking water.  The workers from the Inland Empire, outside of Los Angeles, held a 15-day strike that included a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage for safe jobs in September.

Energy around the calls for Walmart to change its treatment of workers and communities has been building.  In just one year, OUR Walmart, the unique workers’ organization founded by Walmart Associates, has grown from a group of 100 Walmart workers to an army of thousands of Associates in hundreds of stores across 43 states. Together, OUR Walmart members have been leading the way in calling for an end to double standards that are hurting workers, communities and our economy.

The alleged Mexican bribery scandal, uncovered by the New York Times, has shined a light on the failure of internal controls within Walmart that extend to significant breaches of compliance in stores and along the company’s supply chain.  The company is facing yet another gender discrimination lawsuit on behalf of 100,000 women in California and in Tennessee, and a wage theft class action suit in Chicago. In the company’s warehousing system, in which Walmart has continually denied responsibility for the working conditions for tens of thousands of people who work for warehouses where they move billions of dollars of goods, workers are facing rampant wage theft and health and safety violations so extreme that they have led to an unprecedented $600,000 in fines.   The Department of Labor fined a Walmart seafood supplier for wage and hour violations, and Human Rights Watch has spoken out about the failures of controls in regulating suppliers overseas, including a seafood supplier in Thailand where trafficking and debt bondage were cited.

Financial investors are also joining the call for Walmart to create better checks and balances, transparency and accountability that will protect workers and communities and strengthen the company.  At the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Bentonville, OUR Walmart member Jackie Goebel brought a stadium full of shareholders to their feet applauding her call for an end to the short staffing that’s hurting workers and customer service.  Goebel was one of four Associate-shareholders who proposed a resolution calling for the reining in of executive pay. The resolution received unprecedented support from major pension funds that voted their shares against Walmart CEO and members of the board this June, amounting to a ten-fold increase and overall 1 in 3 shares not held by the Walton family against the company’s leadership.

These widespread problems have also thwarted Walmart’s plans for growth, particularly in urban markets.  Calling the company a “bad actor,” New York City mayoral candidates have all been outspoken in their opposition to Walmart entering the city without addressing labor and community relations’ problems.  This month, the city’s largest developer announced an agreement with a union-grocery store at a site that Walmart had hoped would be its first location in New York. In Los Angeles, mayoral candidates are refusing to accept campaign donations from the deep pockets of Walmart, and in Boston, Walmart was forced to suspend its expansion into the city after facing significant community opposition.

 

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Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, community organizations, women’s advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country.