Washington, DC (June 19) — Twelve Walmart moms—many who were on strike earlier this month—are attending the upcoming White House Summit on Working Families on Monday. The group will speak with attendees about their concerns regarding the economic crisis the country’s largest employer of women is creating for them and others in America.
The financial struggles of Walmart moms, like those of many women who are increasingly the breadwinners for their families and disproportionately impacted by the low-wage worker crisis, are driven by the company’s low pay and erratic scheduling. Inadequate protections for pregnant workers are another major concern that Walmart moms are raising. Even though Walmart brings in more than $16 billion in annual profits, the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year – forcing many to rely on food stamps and other taxpayer-supported programs to survive.
Charmaine Givens-Thomas, who is attending the summit, launched a petition last year asking President Obama to make good on his promise to tackle income inequality and meet with Walmart workers that are calling for better jobs and an end to illegal retaliation. The petition has over 200,000 signatures.
“Walmart moms like me are living the reality of the income inequality the president has been talking about,” said Givens-Thomas, a mother and grandmother who has worked at Walmart for over eight years and only makes $23,000 a year. “We want the president to meet with us to hear how Walmart is fueling the income equality crisis—and how the company could easily fix this problem by providing full-time work for at least $25,000 a year.” Recently, Givens-Thomas’s gas was turned off because she could not afford to pay the bill.
The summit will begin as Walmart workers—part of the three-year old national organization OUR Walmart—make significant strides in changing policies of the country’s largest employer, particularly in its treatment of women. Recently, Walmart improved its pregnancy policy after OUR Walmart members, who are also shareholders, submitted a resolution to the company about its pregnancy policy. And, responding to OUR Walmart members’ growing calls on the retailer to improve access to hours, Walmart rolled out a new system nationwide that allows workers to sign up for open shifts in their stores online.
Although Walmart recently made changes to its pregnancy policy, the employer has not taken the necessary steps to ensure all pregnant workers can protect their health and keep their jobs. One Walmart mom attending the summit, Bene’t Homes, miscarried after her managers refused to give her light duty—a simple accommodation.
“I’m going to the summit because the administration needs to hear about the constant struggle and hardship that Walmart has created for hundreds of thousands of women like me,” said the 25 year old Chicago native who is a single mother of a five year old boy. “I want to raise my son in a safe, nice neighborhood, but when I only bring home $700 a month, I can barely cover the bills. We have to live with my parents, and I recently was forced to apply for food stamps.”
Moms like Bene’t are involved with “Respect the Bump,” a group of women that have come together to ensure all pregnant women at Walmart are able to get reasonable accommodations like light duty when they need it. Leading women’s 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 all pregnant workers are protected.
Walmart mom Barbara Collins is also attending. Collins 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.
“I worked at Walmart for over six years, but I needed to rely on government assistance just to stay off the street. I had to visit three local food banks one month so I could feed my daughter,” said the Walmart mom from Placerville, California. “When I took a stand and spoke out against Walmart’s retaliation against my coworkers, I was fired. The president needs to see that Walmart is trying to silence moms like me who are shining a light on what is really happening at the company.”
Detailing the widespread problems Walmart moms face on low-pay and erratic scheduling, national public policy organization Demos released a report earlier this monthshowing 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.