Emboldened by CEO Disclosure that Hundreds of Thousands of Walmart Workers Are Paid Less than $25K a Year, Walmart Workers, Supporters Intensify Protests Against Megaretailers’ Low Wage Jobs in Southern California
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LOS ANGELES –Fifty-four Walmart workers, members of the clergy and community members sat down in the middle of the street in Downtown Los Angeles Thursday evening to call for an end to retaliation and a salary of at least $25,000 a year for Walmart workers.
“Walmart has proven its willingness to break the law by illegally firing workers and trying to silence them,” said Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. “We are sitting down today to demonstrate that we won’t allow these dirty tactics in Los Angeles.”
Pointing to the $17 billion in annual profits and the $144.7 billion wealth of the Walton family, Durazo said Walmart can and should do more to improve jobs, and in turn, the local and national economy.
“We need good jobs in Los Angeles,” Durazo said. “We need stable jobs that pay well and that’s not what Walmart offers. There’s no reason the world’s largest company can’t pay workers $25,000 a year.”
Durazo was one of dozens arrested in the largest ever act of civil disobedience against the mega-retailer. The protest follows the arrest of 21 clergy members and Walmart workers in September.
Alongside Durazo were Walmart workers like Richard Reynoso, one of as many as 825,000 Walmart workers who are paid less than $25,000 a year.
Recently, Walmart US CEO Bill Simon disclosed in a presentation that 475,000 Walmart workers are paid more than $25,000 a year; meaning that as many as 825,000 Walmart workers are paid less. Reynoso, who has worked at Walmart for about a year and a half, struggles to pay his bills makes far less than $25,000 a year – even though he has a rare full-time job.
“I got arrested today because I believe that taking this step will encourage others to be brave and step forward and stand up to the world’s largest retailer,” said Reynoso, who is an overnight stocker at the Duarte Walmart. “Walmart can’t silence me.”
The protest comes almost exactly one year after the first-ever strike at Walmart began in Los Angeles. In that historic event workers at the Pico Rivera Walmart put their jobs on the line to end the illegal retaliation when they walked off the job. They set off a wave of strikes and protests around the nation.
“When I went on strike last year I had no idea what would happen, but I knew I had to do something to change Walmart,” said Dan Hindman, a Walmart worker at the Paramount store who makes less than $25,000 a year. “I am simply blown away by what has happened since then. We are winning, we have so much support and we are forcing Walmart to pay attention to its workers.”
Clergy members representing many different faiths joined the workers. Faith leaders’ support has been constant for workers who are risking their jobs by taking on Walmart’s policies.
“Americans want Walmart to own up to its position as the largest employer in the country and stop creating an economy that forces workers to take jobs that are unstable and pay less than what they need,” said Pastor Bridie C. Roberts, a program director at CLUE LA. “Walmart workers are risking their livelihoods to speak out for all American families. But instead of listening to workers and respecting their rights, Walmart is illegally intimidating, threatening, and even firing workers. Clergy members will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Walmart workers until the corporate giant changes its course toward real and positive change.”
Walmart has set its sights on expanding in urban areas like Los Angeles, but community opposition to its treatment of workers, effect on local business and negative environmental impact has been great.
In June a judge ruled that Burbank must rescind building permits it issued to Walmart to open a store in response to a lawsuit filed by community members. In New York and Boston community members have also successfully blocked Walmart from moving into the country’s densest areas.