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

Posted by on Dec 14, 2012 in Press Releases, Walmart Watch Blog | 13 Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, December 14, 2012

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Lynsey Kryzwick, 646-200-5311, lynsey@berlinrosen.com
Jamie Way, 202-721-8015, jway@ufcw.org

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 hel prebuild 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.

13 Comments

  1. Hartford, CT educator
    December 17, 2012

    Congratulations for your determination and courage. Tavis Smiley, who has done so much to bring attention to American poor, should not be accepting Walmart sponsorship because of the company’s policies that create poverty by its “parttimization” of labor and not providing basic benefits. In protest, I vote with my wallet. I have not been to a Walmart store since summer. In solidarity,

    Reply
  2. floridanativee
    December 17, 2012

    Wal-Mart and their customers all had a chance to speak during the Black Thursday deal and looks like both did. Very few workers left their jobs and sales records were set even in this bad Obama economy. Studies by union supported think tanks do not prove much except the people pushing them don’t want the truth to come out. What really means something is that almost no employees joined the strike after millions of dollars of free advertising from the media. The same thing happened with the McDonald’s strike. Then the sad display of thuggery at the MI capital really has given unions a very, very black eye. It is making things worse. If unions are to stop their steep downward slide, they must stop thinking about the union bosses and forgetting about their workers. Making demands for $16/hour for unskilled labor gets nothing done.

    Reply
    • UnclePaul12
      December 18, 2012

      Walmart lies the way it usually does:

      http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/12/17/1349201/walmart-benefits-go-away/

      Reply
      • floridanativee
        December 18, 2012

        Surely even you are not going to try to say think progress which is a George Sorrus and Tide Foundation socialist funded website is a creditable website. If Wal-Mart had not fought back against the gangster tactics of the union bosses, they would have remained a small chain or be bankrupt. They have a responsibility to their share holders to be successful. As it is, their return on investment is way below industry average. Their profits and CEO compensation are below industry averages. You guys need to go back to licking your wounds from your recent a**whippings. Your time has come and gone. Workers don’t want to pay their money for your brand of corruption and sillyness. Beating on a 5 gallon pail with a wooden spoon and expecting people to sympathize with you hasn’t worked and will not work. Try being an adult.

      • MEProudLIBERAL
        December 18, 2012

        It’s still true old man!

      • floridanativee
        December 18, 2012

        If companies want to do business in these foreign companies, they must do what is customary in those countries. Unfortunately, it is common and necessary. All companies do it. It is even worse in the Middle East. The union supporting this blog does it in the United States and steals from it’s own members. Officials have gone to the slammer for it. You can easily see for yourself with a few minutes on Google. You should check yourself before blaming others. As my Mother used to say, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.

      • MEProudLIBERAL
        December 18, 2012

        Why don’t you have your mommy call the Feds and tell them what a fine ethical company Walmart is. Hurry they’re waiting for mommy’s call!!!

      • floridanativee
        December 18, 2012

        Mommie is dead.

      • MEProudLIBERAL
        December 18, 2012

        Considering how old you are, I’m not surprised.

      • floridanativee
        December 23, 2012

        Old enough to remember the free market system and young enough to see it again.

      • floridanativee
        December 18, 2012

        If it is true where are the prosecutions?

      • MEProudLIBERAL
        December 18, 2012

        Have patience.

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