A group of more than 100 Walmart workers from stores in Northern California, Miami, Boston, Denver and elsewhere started an extended strike on Memorial Day against the retail mega-monster. And they formed a caravan of upset workers who will descend on company headquarters and its annual shareholder meeting in Benton, Ark. on June 1.
In a telephone press conference, three leaders of the group explained they had to step up to the longer strike after the retailer – known for its low prices, low wages, lousy benefits and virulent anti-worker stands – brushed off prior 1-day walkouts.
The group of 100 includes leaders of Our Walmart, which is working for change in the stores from the inside. Their allies include American Rights at Work, Jobs With Justice and Wake Up Walmart, a union-backed organization dedicated to educating consumers about the retail monster’s abuses.
Walmart is retaliating not just by firing workers illegally but also by filing anti-trespassing suits against the firm’s community group and individual supporters in Washington state, California, Florida and Arkansas. Workers nationwide filed more than 30 labor law breaking claims (formally called unfair labor practices) against Walmart last week with regional offices of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
But the strike is also occurring, the workers on the conference call said, because labor law, enforced by the NLRB, is too weak to protect workers against the company.
“I’ve seen and experienced many things at Walmart that I would not want my son to experience” in mistreatment of workers and retaliation against those who ask about basic things, such as pay and scheduling, said Dominick Ware, a Walmart worker at the firm’s San Leandro, Calif., store.
“From embarrassing employees on the floor to denying opportunities for betterment, Walmart does not value its associates,” he added. “Associates” is the firm’s name for its 1.6 million workers.
“We are stretched to our limit financially” because of Walmart’s low wages and lack of benefits “and we are stretched to our limit physically because we’re understaffed,” Ware added.
Abricia Edick, a 13-year worker, aged 63 and now at Walmart’s Chicopee, Mass., store added that she was originally in New York area stores, working full-time for a maximum wage of $11.70 hourly. After recovering from a heart attack suffered on the job, she was transferred to part-time work in Chicopee, at $11.40 hourly, she added.
“They take people and use them up, until a person is not healthy,” she said. “Even in New York, working for them full-time, I had to get food stamps and LIHEAP (federal low-income persons’ heating assistance). Now in Massachusetts, I had to get both of those and MassHealth” – the state health care system – “because Walmart’s health insurance is expensive and ridiculous.
“What it comes down to is that the general public is paying my way,” despite Walmart’s high profits, Edick added. By contrast with its low pay, Walmart earned $16 billion last year, its data show.