CALLS GROW FOR BETTER PAY AND SCHEDULING, END TO ILLEGAL SILENCING AT COUNTRY’S LARGEST EMPLOYER
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(June 4, 2014) — Walmart moms—members of OUR Walmart—have been walking off the job since Friday in protest of the company’s illegal silencing of their co-workers who have been calling for better pay.
Walmart mom Evelin Cruz of the Pico Rivera, CA store says: “I’m striking for Barbara, for Tiffany and for other moms who Walmart has tried to silence. Our families cannot continue to struggle on Walmart’s poverty pay and constantly changing schedules while Walmart and the Walton family make billions from our work.”
The majority of Walmart moms are paid less than $25,000 a year – forcing many to rely on food stamps and other taxpayer-supported programs to survive. Working women – increasingly the breadwinners and decision makers in households – make up the majority of Walmart’s workforce and are often hit hardest by the company’s poverty pay.
Walmart moms walked off the job this morning in Orlando (see photo), joining moms who have already walked off the job in Dallas, Pittsburgh, Southern California and the Bay area. More are expected to strike outside their stores in 20 cities today, including Tampa, Miami, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and the Bay area. The National Labor Relations Board’s historic trial prosecuting Walmart – which includes the illegal firing of moms like Barbara Collins – is currently underway. Barbara was trying to get more hours to put a few dollars aside for her daughter to go to college – when she was fired for striking against Walmart’s illegal retaliation against workers.
After taking their concerns directly to Board Chairman and Walmart heir Rob Walton in Phoenix, many Walmart moms are en route to Bentonville to the company’s annual shareholders meeting to call on CEO Doug McMillon to take the company in a new direction.
Walmart mom and shareholder Charmaine Givens-Thomas, who will be speaking in support of a proposal to improve corporate governance at Friday’s shareholders meeting, says: “The Walton heirs have led the company to a low point defined by the hardship they are creating for working families, the inexcusable lack of oversight of its supply chain and illegal bribery – all to increase their massive fortune. Shareholders and associates want Mr. McMillon to lead our company back to a direction that Americans can be proud of.”
Detailing the widespread problems Walmart moms face on low-pay and erratic scheduling, national public policy organization Demos released a report yesterdayshowing how these conditions keep millions of hard-working women and families near poverty. The report finds that establishing a new wage floor equivalent to $25,000 per year for fulltime, year round work at retail companies employing at least 1,000 workers would improve the lives of more than 3.2 million female retail workers and lift 900,000 women and their families directly out of poverty or near poverty.
“Walmart has a unique opportunity to help lift working moms and the families who rely on their income out of poverty,” said Amy Traub, Demos Senior Policy Analyst and author of the report Retail’s Choice. “Our research shows that nearly one in every three women working part-time in retail wants full-time employment, and the rise in erratic scheduling has made it impossible for women in this industry to consistently budget effectively and manage their childcare needs. Walmart could make a tremendous difference for the more than 800,000 women they employ and set a new standard for the industry.”
At the same time, women’s rights leaders are speaking out for change at the company. After adjustments to a pregnancy policy in response to pressure from women’s rights lawyers and OUR Walmart associate-shareholders, a number of groups—including the National Women’s Law Center, the National Organization for Women, a Better Balance, Family Values @ Work and the National Partnership for Women and Families—have been mobilizing through a petition, member activism and events on Capitol Hill, calling on Walmart to fully upgrade its pregnancy policy so it protects all pregnant workers.
The most common job in the country is a retail salesperson, and women disproportionately hold the retail industry’s lowest paid jobs. Elected officials, women’s groups and economic experts point to Walmart, the standard-setter for the industry and employer of 825,000 women, as urgently needing to raise wages to boost the economy.
“We’re proud to stand with members of OUR Walmart who are on strike today to protest the illegal firing of workers—many of them moms—who spoke out for better jobs,” said Ellen Bravo, director of Family Values @ Work and lifelong activist fighting for working women. “Despite what Walmart wants us to believe, these brave women are the real ‘Walmart moms,’ and their reality is poverty jobs and erratic schedules that make it a constant struggle to provide for their families. Real Walmart moms are using food pantries and food stamps to feed their kids—and skipping meals so their children don’t go hungry. As the country’s largest employer of women, Walmart can and must do better — pay its workers a minimum of $25,000 a year for full-time work and end the retaliation now.”
Walmart moms, women’s groups and their supporters are not alone in their calls for the mega retailer to change. Institutional Shareholder Services, which advises mutual funds, is recommending investors oppose the re-election of Chairman Rob Walton. Over 50,000 people—including 16,000 mutual fund investors—have signed Sum of Us’s petition urging investors in Vanguard and Fidelity to send letters asking the funds to vote against board chairman Rob Walton at the shareholders meeting.