Proof that the retail behemoth is failing to pay its workers a living wage is the launching of food drives by Walmart in at least one of its stores this week. A plastic bin appeared in a Canton, Ohio, Walmart with signs that read: “Please place food items in this container so our associates in need can have a good Thanksgiving!”
Terrie Napolitano, a Lodi, N.J., resident who shops at several Walmarts, said she saw a similar bin at a store in her area. She commented, “How about paying them something substantially more than $7.25 an hour?” Napolitano, 58, is a union worker in the deli department of a large supermarket chain.
“What kind of damned nerve does it take to ask poorly-paid coworkers and low wage workers who come in to shop to donate so Walmart workers can have enough to eat? ” Napolitano said she went over to the courtesy desk in the store to complain to the store manager right after she saw one of the collection baskets.
“He tried to tell me there was nothing wrong with Walmart doing that. He said it showed that Walmart people cared about each other and were willing to extend themselves for one another. What a load of baloney.
“In my store we get free turkeys from the company – we have a union, health care and paid sick and vacation days. There is no reason why this can’t be done in Walmart.” Napolitano, who works for a Shoprite chain, is a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
When the courtesy desk at the Walmart store in Chicago’s West Loop was contacted, the person answering the phone said the problem did not exist in that store because no one was collecting any food donations there. When asked whether the store manager could comment on why Walmart, during the holiday season, couldn’t consider paying a living wage instead of holding food drives the person on the phone said Walmart only answers questions like that when they come from associates.
Walmart workers have been staging strikes and protests all over the country, demanding a living wage and better working conditions.
Workers at Walmart, the largest employer in the nation, labor leaders and community leaders from all across the country held a press conference in Washington DC this week where they announced plans to turn the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday – into one of the largest mobilizations of workers in U.S. History.
The action will be in support of Walmart workers who are planning strikes, walkouts and demonstrations at Walmart stores from coast to coast that day.
“Count on the full support of the millions of working people who belong to our unions,” said Richard Trumka, president of the 13 million member AFL-CIO.
The bravery of fast food and retail workers who have been willing to risk everything by fighting for their rights has impressed many.
“I want to be able to take care of my family,” Los Angeles Walmart worker Anthony Goytia told a press conference called during strikes by Southern California Walmart workers last week. “And that’s why I’m risking everything – my livelihood, my ability to provide for my family, my ability to pay rent on time, put food on the table, everything, by challenging a company that penalizes and even fires workers who speak out for better jobs.”
Photo: J Pat Carter/AP
(This story was edited on November 22nd.)