In what labor rights groups are calling a first in Walmart history, workers from multiple stores have walked off the job today. Workers led a one-day work stoppage for nearly a dozen Walmart stores to protest the retail giant’s retaliation for worker’s efforts to organize for better treatment and pay.
“Walmart should not be silencing workers for standing up for what’s good for my store, my co-workers, my family and my community,” Venanzi Luna, a striking worker at the Pico Rivera Walmart, said in a statement. Luna is a member of OUR Walmart, a national Walmart employee organization with a presence in 43 states that’s backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
At a rally today outside the Pico Rivera Walmart where Luna works, workers will tell their stories of struggling to barely get by on Walmart wages and dealing with reduced hours, safety issues and staffing issues. Among those coming out to support the striking workers are plenty of immigrant, labor and religious organizations who say Walmart workers shouldn’t be forced to rely on public assistance to get by, especially as the corporate behemoth turns around $16 billion a year in profits. Walmart has 1.4 million so-called associates around the country, and is union free in its North American stores. Workers on strike today say they are fighting for all of them.
The walkout comes after many months of worker organizing. Last month workers in San Diego and Dallas rallied for better pay, arguing that their wages, workers couldn’t afford health care premiums or even rent. A Walmart spokesperson told the Dallas Morning News after last month’s rally that Walmart workers have “some of the best jobs in the retail industry.” Workers have also walked off the job at distribution centers that serve Walmart in recent months.
Instead of paying so much for PR campaigns, damage control and organizing suppression, Walmart could put that money toward treating its workers better, labor rights groups argue. “Walmart has been forced to pull back from expansion plans in Boston and New York and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying and PR campaigns to buy support in new markets,” John Marshall, an economist with the UFCW, said in a statement this week. “These additional costs are unnecessary and could be avoided if the company respected its workers’ rights.”
Today’s action comes just days ahead of Walmart’s annual investor meeting on October 10.