Walmart workers in China, pushed to strike due to shifting schedules and demanding the right to government-free unions and leaders, have contacted U.S. Walmart activists to garner support.
In a July 20 Skype conference call, the Chinese workers, who banded together into the Walmart Workers Network, discussed common issues with Our Walmart, a group of independent U.S. Walmart workers, Hong Kong and independent Chinese labor newspapers say.
The Chinese workers asked for U.S. support in their struggle against the monster retailer, one Our Walmart leader, Cantare Davunt, told another news organization, Reuters. An Our Walmart colleague added the Chinese and U.S. workers can use their collaboration to press Walmart managers on common issues.
The Walmart Workers Network, also called the Walmart Chinese Workers Association (WCWA) was forced to strike four retail stores starting on July 1, the labor-monitoring papers reported. Some 200 workers struck. The strikes lasted through July 4.
Key issues were scheduling and free elections for union leadership – in an independent union. The WCWA is not part of China’s official All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which works hand-in-glove with management and the government.
“We are going to stand our ground,” Zhang Liya, a founding member of the workers’ network, told the Chinese labor paper. Walmart unlawfully fired Zhang Liya for “running for the trade union presidency in Store 1059 in Shenzhen.” Zhang Liya said its attacks “made more people awaken, and have turned their indignation into persistence.”
At least 130 workers marched through one big Walmart Nanchang store chanting “Walmart workers stand up!” and “No to the comprehensive working hours system.” That’s the new forced scheduling Walmart. Their action prompted workers at two other Chinese Walmart retail stores – a smaller one in Nanchang and another store in Chengdu – to also walk out.
Another WCWA leader, Wang Shishu, called the new hours system “a move by upper management to maximize flexibility.” If Walmart closes a store, he told the labor paper, “They could force anyone to quit by shuffling their shifts around and making their lives harder. They’d save huge sums of money in severance fees.” A leaked Walmart document on the new scheduling system claims it would not affect full-timers employment, seniority or legal benefits.
Photo: Zhang Liya (left), co-founder of the Walmart Workers Network, an independent union in China, holds a protest sign in front of the monster retailer’s store in Shenzhen. The sign, like the workers, protests an exploitative new weekly scheduling system. The Chinese Walmart workers are also in contact with, and support, exploited U.S. Walmart workers. | PAI Photo Service.