The following blog post was written OUR Walmart member Rose Campbell of Chicago.
This year on Equal Pay Day, instead of talking about what I could have done with all the money my male counterparts made, I want to talk about the reality of “low-wage” work.
Although few people may realize, the vast majority of workers earning minimum wage in this country are women. In our economy, low-wage work is often another term for what is traditionally seen as women’s work.
I work at Walmart, the world’s largest private employer. My female coworkers and I make up a large portion of the low-wage workforce in our economy. I believe that in order to talk about equal pay, we have to talk about Walmart.
As a grandmother of 14, I would love to live in my own apartment or house where my family could come to visit me. Unfortunately, I cannot afford to do so. After four years of working at Walmart, I make $9.60/hr. Not only is my pay low, but I never receive a full 40 hours a week. Even though I have full-time status, some weeks I get as few as 19 hours. No one can get by on $180 a week in Chicago.
Because I was struggling to make ends meet and couldn’t buy a car, I moved in with a friend who lived close enough to Walmart that I could walk to work. At 58 years old, I am not only forced to share a room, but to share a bed with my friend.
This was not my American dream. And I’m not the only one struggling to get by. I watch my coworkers struggle with the same financial challenges every day.
In 2001, women in hourly positions were found to earn $1.16 less per hour than the already modest wages of our male counterparts. Perhaps most disturbingly, instead of addressing the issues raised in various gender discrimination law suits, Walmart has actively lobbied against equal pay for women – including the Lilly Ledbetter Act, paycheck fairness and paid sick leave.
This is one of the many reasons that I have chosen to stand up. Last year, I joined the worker-led Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) and chose to go on strike the night before Black Friday. It was a hard choice and I was scared, but I believe that until we stand up together and start naming the names of those who wish to hold us down, nothing will change. I hope my actions as a Walmart worker help to move us one step closer to equality.