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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.

 

December 11, 2012

President Hansen Speaks Out on Michigan’s Sham Right to Work Law

Washington, DC –Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today released the following statement regarding the passage of a right to work law in Michigan.

“I am deeply disappointed that Michigan has gone over to the dark side. Right to work is a sham that provides no new rights and no new work. It is designed for a single purpose: to give more money and power to CEOs at the expense of their workers. This is particularly poor timing for Michigan, which is in the midst of a truly remarkable comeback story, led by the resurgence of the auto industry and made possible by unsung heroes in retail and meatpacking. But make no mistake—we will use this moment to build a stronger union, ramp up communication and outreach, and help our members continue to bargain for a better life.

“The people of Michigan spoke loud and clear on Election Day, supporting pro-worker candidates like Senator Debbie Stabenow and President Obama by wide margins. But instead of listening to his constituents, Governor Snyder is bending to the big-moneyed interests behind right to work. This is truly a sad day for Michigan.”

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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, join our online community on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

December 5, 2012

UFCW Statement on Tesco’s Fresh & Easy

Statement by UFCW Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill Regarding Tesco’s Announcement on US Venture, Fresh & Easy


“Tesco’s announcement today forces thousands of Fresh & Easy workers in California, Arizona, and Nevada to face a holiday season filled with uncertainty and fear if their jobs and stores will still be there in the new year. These job losses could have been avoided if Tesco had chosen to engage with community stakeholders and its customers to address the many underlying problems and warning signs of the troubled Fresh & Easy model.

“We call on Tesco and Fresh & Easy executives to include all community and labor stakeholders as the company undergoes this review process.”

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The United Food & Commercial 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, go to ufcw.org and join us on Facebook: UFCWinternational and follow us on Twitter @UFCW.

December 5, 2012

UFCW Statement on Tesco’s Fresh & Easy

Statement by UFCW Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill Regarding Tesco’s Announcement on US Venture, Fresh & Easy


“Tesco’s announcement today forces thousands of Fresh & Easy workers in California, Arizona, and Nevada to face a holiday season filled with uncertainty and fear if their jobs and stores will still be there in the new year. These job losses could have been avoided if Tesco had chosen to engage with community stakeholders and its customers to address the many underlying problems and warning signs of the troubled Fresh & Easy model.

“We call on Tesco and Fresh & Easy executives to include all community and labor stakeholders as the company undergoes this review process.”

# # #

The United Food & Commercial 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, go to ufcw.org and join us on Facebook: UFCWinternational and follow us on Twitter @UFCW.

November 23, 2012

Striking Walmart Workers Make Their Voices Heard

Walkouts in Dallas, Miami, Wisconsin and Bay Area Kick Off Strikes in More than 100 Cities – 1,000 Black Friday Protests in 46 State Sweep Across the Nation

 

FOR UPDATES:
Video of Walmart workers on why they’re speaking out: http://bit.ly/U3ZfDB
Follow on Twitter: #WalmartStrikers and @ForRespect and @ChangeWalmart
Watch live stream: http://Qik.com/OURWalmart
 

USA—Walmart workers in Miami, Dallas, Wisconsin and the Bay Area kicked off this year’s Black Friday shopping season by walking off the job on Thursday, and this morning, workers from Chicago and Washington, DC have joined them. Throughout the day, Walmart workers in more than 100 cities are expected to go on strike as part of the continued wave of 1,000 protests in 46 states leading up to and on Black Friday, including strikes, rallies, flash mobs, direct action and other efforts to inform customers about the illegalactions that Walmart has been taking against its workers.

The workers, who are members of the organization OUR Walmart, are on strike in protest against the company’s attempts to silence workers who speak out for better jobs. Workers in California, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Minnesota and across the country are among those expected to strike throughout the day.

Watch a video from Walmart workers on why they’re standing upor follow the conversation on Twitter at #WalmartStrikers.  Live-streaming of protests will also be available atQik.com/OURWalmart.

“Walmart has spent the last 50 years pushing its way on workers and communities,” said Mary Pat Tifft, an OUR Walmart member and 24-year associate who led a protest on Thursday evening in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  “In just one year, leaders of OUR Walmart and Warehouse Workers United have begun to prove that change is coming to the world’s largest employer.”

“Our voices are being heard,” said Colby Harris, OUR Walmart member and 3-year associate who walked off the job in Lancaster, Texas Thursday evening. “And thousands of people in our cities and towns and all across the country are joining our calls for change at Walmart. We are overwhelmed by the support and proud of what we’ve achieved so quickly and about where we are heading.”

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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 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 20, 2012

UFCW International President Joe Hansen On the Demos Report and Retail Workers

Washington, DC – The following is a statement issued by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Joseph Hansen in response to a new report released today by Demos, “Retail’s Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Overall Economy,” which calls on retailers to raise wages:

“One million UFCW members working in retail in the U.S. concur with Demos’ evidence that retailers, workers and the U.S. economy will benefit from retail companies investing in their workforce.

The report outlines that raising wages for full-time retail workers at the nation’s largest retail companies (those employing at least 1,000 workers) would result in improving the lives of more than 1.5 million retail workers and their families who are currently living in or hovering above poverty.   Higher wage increases would create more purchasing power for retail workers, which would generate $4 to $5 billion in additional annual sales for the industry, keep prices low for shoppers, and create more than 100,000 jobs.

“Walmart, for instance, paid its top executives $59 million in compensation in the last fiscal year and can clearly afford to pay their workers more.  The Walton family—whose combined family fortune is estimated to be $100 billion—has chosen to engage in elaborate stock buybacks that take earned corporate profits and put them back into the hands of shareholders.  For Walmart, stock buybacks have been the reason the Walton family’s interest in the company has risen to 51 percent—shifting the control of a so-called public company into the hands of a private family.

“The UFCW calls on retail employers like Walmart to heed this research and lead the way in making sure that retail jobs are good jobs with benefits that can support a family so that more retail workers have a pathway to the middle class.”

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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 join our online community at http://www.facebook.com/ufcwinternational and https://twitter.com/UFCW.

 

 

November 16, 2012

Statement in Response to Unfair Labor Practice Charge Filed by Walmart Seeking Injunction from UFCW Picket Lines

Washington, D.C. –  The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today released the following statement in response to Walmart’s unfair labor practice charge filed against the UFCW which seeks an injunction from UFCW picket lines:

Walmart is grasping at straws to try to stop a groundswell of voices from associates and their supporters who are protesting the company’s unlawful attempts to silence workers.  Associates are exercising their freedom to speak out in protest of Walmart’s unfair actions against their coworkers.  Supporters like UFCW members, religious leaders, community members and other activists are taking action to support Walmart associates and demand the company listen to its workforce to improve working conditions.   There’s nothing in the law that gives an employer the right to silence workers and citizens.

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The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries. UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class join our online community at http://www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

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

November 16, 2012

Statement by UFCW International President Joe Hansen on Walmart’s Corrupt Business Practices

(Washington, D.C.) – Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today released the following statement in response to the New York Times ongoing reporting on Walmart’s corruption and purported cover-up by senior company officials.

“The New York Times reported today that Walmart’s own internal reviews show more extensive corruption and internal cover-up than previously reported or admitted to by the company.  Walmart CEO Mike Duke and Chairman Rob Walton have failed to take any responsibility to shareholders, associates or the federal government for their leadership of the company in the face of reported illegal conduct.

“High paid public relations campaigns cannot undo illegal activity.  Walmart paid lip service to the bribery scandal and, even worse, engaged in illegal activities to silence its associates.  Walmart shareholders, associates and customers deserve answers.

“The reported cover-up by Walmart executives at the highest levels exposes a core truth:  Walmart cannot be taken at its word.  We ask that Congress immediately convene hearings to examine whether Walmart’s U.S. operations were engaged in any illegal or unethical practices, and whether they continue to do so.”

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The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries. UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at http://www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by UFCW, we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, women 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.