CHICAGO WALMART WORKERS GO ON STRIKE
Joined by Community Members, Workers Risk Jobs to Protest Company’s Aggressive Efforts to Silence Them
CHICAGO – Walmart workers walked off the job at 3 stores in the Chicago area today, calling on Walmart to end its illegal retaliation against workers calling for better wages and full-time work. Many earning less than $25,000 a year at the country’s largest employer, these workers are risking their livelihoods by striking against an employer that aggressively, and illegally, fires and disciplines workers for speaking out for better jobs.
Pointing to the $17 billion in annual profits and the $144.7 billion wealth of the Walton family, the group said Walmart can and should do more to improve jobs, and in turn, the economy.
Striking workers like Richard Wilson have been emboldened by the recent disclosure from Walmart US CEO Bill Simon that as many as 825,000 Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year.
“Walmart, we’ve all had enough—me and my coworkers and my neighbors and all of Chicago. Walmart’s executives and all my neighbors need to hear the reality of working at Walmart,” said Wilson, who makes less than $14,000 a year and has worked at Walmart for two years. “I’m a young man trying to get ahead and get a piece of the American dream. Despite working at Walmart for all this time, and all of Walmart’s promises to my city, I still depend on my grandmother for housing and make a poverty wage. I can’t build my own life and my own future. I’m speaking out to change that – and Walmart shouldn’t retaliate against those fighting for a better life.”
The group’s call for better jobs includes:
- an end to illegal retaliation;
- a minimum of $25,000/year;
- more full-time work.
Faith leaders like Pastor Rev. Walter P. Turner III of the New Spiritual Light Missionary Baptist Church joined the workers in standing up to Walmart.
“Walmart jobs should be good paying jobs, family-supporting jobs,” said Rev. Turner. “These courageous workers have stood together and stood together for their right to stand up. Walmart must end their attempts to silence them and recognize the dignity of their hard work. Walmart workers deserve better and Chicago deserves better.”
Since 30,000 workers and supporters participated in strikes and protests on Black Friday 2012, calls for change at the country’s largest retailer and employer have been intensifying, putting Walmart on the defensive. Citing low wages, manipulative scheduling, understaffing and unsafe working conditions, members of Congress, economic and policy experts, shareholders and financial analysts are pointing to practices that Walmart must end to improve jobs, strengthen the economy—and the company’s bottom line.
The strike in Chicago comes shortly after after Walmart workers in Los Angeles and Tacoma, Washington walked off their jobs. Workers like Wilson said they could no longer wait to demand better pay and an end to illegal retaliation.
The strikers are members of the growing national organization OUR Walmart. OUR Walmart, or Organization United for Respect at Walmart, formed just two years ago, when 100 Walmart associates came together to voice their concerns about the company retaliating against those who speak out for better working conditions.
Walmart’s illegal retaliation against workers increasing
Since June, Walmart has illegally disciplined over 80 workers, including firing 20 worker-leaders who were exercising their civil rights. More than 100 Unfair Labor Practice charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Walmart. Workers in California recently announced that after an investigation, the NLRB regional office announced it found merit to OUR Walmart’s charge that Walmart committed 11 violations of national labor law.
Because they want to keep denying American workers the wages and hours they need, Walmart is trying to silence workers who are standing up with their co-workers to live better and spending its time and money trying to deny workers a decent day’s pay. But ongoing labor mismanagement concerns, including Walmart’s inaction on ending illegal retaliation, improving jobs at stores and putting meaningful protections in place at its suppliers, have contributed to record-levels of votes against Walmart’s board of directors and even shareholder divestment this year.
Walmart workforce reliance on public assistance costs taxpayers $900,000—at one store alone
Walmart, the largest company on the Fortune 500 list, has $17 billion in profits a year, and the Waltons—the majority shareholders of the company—have the combined wealth of 42% of American families. Meanwhile, workers are making low wages and not getting enough hours, forcing many to rely on public programs to support their families even though they work for the country’s largest private employer.
A Congressional report released earlier this year calculates the Walmart workforce reliance on public assistance including food stamps, healthcare and other needs is estimated to utilize $900,000 per year of taxpayer funds at just one of the company’s 4,000 stores.
$25,000 a year would mean 1.5 million move out of poverty, create 100,000 new jobs
A report from the national public policy center Demos shows that better jobs at Walmart and other large retailers would even help the store’s bottom line, as well as have an impact on individual families and the larger 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 mean 1.5 million retail workers and their families move out of poverty or near poverty, add to economic growth, increase retail sales and create more than 100,000 new jobs.