During the first week of June, Walmart workers from across the country, and around the globe, will converge on Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas for the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting.
We have stood with these workers, members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), who are fighting for change from within the compnay, and they have stood in solidarity with us as we fight to hold Walmart accountable as they enter DC.
On Wednesday, May 29th at 8am at Florida Avenue Baptist Church, 623 Florida Ave NW, we have the chance to send OUR Walmart members from the DMV off to Bentonville with a prayer breakfast/pep rally! We will provide the food, coffee, entertainment, and (OUR Walmart green) pom poms. Just bring yourself, your friends, and a lot of early morning energy! RSVP here!
These workers are standing up to the biggest, and one of the richest, employers in the world. They will be traveling in a caravan from DC, joined by workers from Boston, heading first to Atlanta, and then following the route of the Freedom Riders, picking up more of their fellow associates as they make their way to Bentonville to confront their bosses at the shareholders’ meeting.
We need you there next week to show them that they have our support! RSVP here!
In addition, even if you can’t make it, we are collecting items for a care package for the workers as they make this corageous jouney for justice to Bentonville. We are looking for travel size toiletry items (shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.), snacks, notes of encoragement, or whatever you want to contribute. Bring items to the event, or email email@example.com for how to contribute.
Associates, women’s rights advocates, environmentalists, small business owners, elected officials and others share their experiences with Walmart
Washington, DC- Earlier this week, the Making Change at Walmart campaign and its coalition partners announced the launch of a new website www.ReallyWalmart.org.
“Usually I work 36 hours a week but they cut hours…sometimes I even get only 26 hours and I am supposed to be fulltime,” said Chicago native and OUR Walmart member Rose Campbell, who is featured on the site. “I’ve even had 19 hours. I’ve got bills and none of that changes…you have to make do.”
ReallyWalmart.org includes testimony from Walmart employees, community activist and even Actor/Activist Danny Glover. The site also includes footage from elected officials, including President Obama’s keynote address to the Unite Food and Commercial Workers Union in 2008. Also featured is exclusive footage from labor activist and former Bangladesh garment worker Kalpona Aktar.
“We might not have millions of dollars to pay for TV ads, but we have the stories to share that Walmart doesn’t want the public to hear,” said OUR Walmart member Charlene Fletcher. “The truth is that Walmart is a company that puts profits over people and employs tactics and strategies that keep employees like me in jobs that don’t let us provide for our families. Even while Walmart’s profits are going up, my coworkers and I have to rely on food stamps just to cover groceries.”
Citing nearly $16 billion in annual profits and a CEO earning 1000 times the average employee, Walmart employees and communities across the globe are calling for a change of course at the company. Making Change at Walmart is calling on the company to raise wages, an end to retaliation against employees who speak out as well as increased access to full time hours so that employees make a minimum of $25,000 per year.
Additionally, the group is also calling on Walmart sign a binding agreement on fire and building safety to help prevent tragedies like last month’s Rana Plaza building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh which caused the death of more than 1,000 garment workers.
Over the course of the last year, Walmart has seen its reputation and business practices questioned amidst bribery allegations, tragedies in its supply chain and turmoil amongst its workforce including strikes launched last year for the first time in the company’s 51 year history. Since 2011 Walmart has seen a decline in its reputational index rating, while its competitors have seen an increase during the same period and support for changing course at Walmart has been growing. Last fall, more than 30,000 supporters joined striking workers on picket lines around Black Friday and since then a number of actions have taken place at Walmart stores across the country including last month when hundreds of OUR Walmart members and their supporters called on the company to correct scheduling problems within stores.
The new website highlights stories from various Walmart employees including those who have called on the company to change course and leadership. Additionally, it features stories of Walmart employees who receive public assistance and those work along the supply chain.
The lines were long yesterday to get into the Wilson Building as over 100 residents overflowed the council chambers in support of the Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2013. The bill would require big box retailers, those with stores over 75,000 square feet and over $1 billion dollars in total revenue, pay the DC living wage and follow the first source hiring law.
The big box retailers, who now typically pay close to the DC minimum wage of $8.25 an hour (Walmart’s average pay is $8.81 according to IBIS World), launched a massive telemarketing and public relations campaign, including setting up a website and “astro turf” organization, “Don’t Block DC Progress” which called for a 7:45am rally and was encouraging DC residents to show up in opposition to the bill, which they claimed would kill jobs.
Unfortunately for them, DC residents are not that easily fooled. At the start time for their rally, there were less than 5 people gathered outside the building, and only around a dozen turned up all day. Many of them had decided they support the bill after hearing the testimony of the over 20 people who spoke in favor of the need to make sure big box stores provide good jobs for DC residents.
Several members of the council showed up, including the sponsor of the bill, Chairman Phil Mendelson, who was not buying claims that the bill would be bad for DC, saying, “Often our debate on the council is only about the number of jobs, not about the quality of those jobs.”
Walmart, despite spending a lot of money lobbying against the bill, chose not show up and be held publicly accountable. This did not sit well with committee chairman and At-Large Council member Vincent Orange, who wondered several times why Walmart was comfortable meeting in private with council members, publishing opinion pieces in the newspaper, and submitting lots of written testimony, but refused to sit and answer questions in a public forum. In fact, none of the large retailers who claim this bill would be bad for business bothered to show up.
It may be because their claims do not stand up to scrutiny. The idea that the law is unconstitutional and discriminatory was debunked by both Phil Mendelson, who said the government is allowed to make rules impacting business, such as the 8-hour work day, and by Ari Weisbard of the Employment Justice Center, who pointed out that DC already has a paid sick days law that treats large employers differently.
Many speakers, including Anne Hoffman from Jews United for Justice and Marina Streznewski from the DC Jobs Council, pointed out that many studies have shown that is actually good for business AND job growth to increase the wages of low income workers. Mike Wilson, representing Respect DC, quoted from a recent study by Demos, which points out that, “Families living in or near poverty spend close to 100 percent of their income just to meet their basic needs, so when they receive an extra dollar in pay, they spend it on goods or services that were out of reach before. This ongoing unmet need makes low-income households more likely to spend new earnings immediately – channeling any addition to their income right back into the economy, creating growth and jobs.”
Others, including Nikki Lewis, the Executive Director of DC Jobs with Justice, argued that this bill would make sure that more DC residents shared in the prosperity which so far has only extended to some parts of the city. Requiring retailers that can afford it to pay a living wage to DC residents will increase the stability of families and communities and will allow residents to get jobs, get off public assistance, and remain in DC. If you haven’t yet, make sure you let your council member know you support this important bill by sending them an email here.
We would like to thank everyone who came out to support and to testify, including: OUR DC, Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, Plymouth United Congregational Church of Christ, Fair Budget Coalition, DC Employment Justice Center, United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 400, DC Jobs with Justice, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, DC Jobs Council, Jews United for Justice, DC for Democracy, OUR Walmart, Making Change at Walmart, Ward 4 Thrives, Faith Strategies, Living Faith Baptist Church and International Ministries, Forward 7, DC Statehood Green Party, and anyone we forgot to mention.
On Wednesday, March 20th at 9am at the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Room 500, the DC Council Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs, chaired by At-Large Council Member Vincent Orange, will be holding a hearing on the Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2013. We need you there! Arrive by 8am with an ID to make sure you get in the building in time for the hearing.
This legislation ensures that Large Retailers pay living wages and provide benefits to its employees. The District Council wants to promote living wage jobs and benefits to help working families make ends meet, slow the erosion of living standards in the District, and provide economic development to meet the community’s needs for family‐supporting jobs.
The Act provides $11.75 as the hourly living wage rate, which increases in proportion to the increase in the Consumer Price Index each year, if any. Benefits are those that may include health care, retirement security, disability, training and education, or paid leave.
Large retailers are stores that are 75,000 square feet or more and collect $1billion dollars in yearly sales. Employees are those who work in the store and persons who work on or about the store for its benefit to include contactors, subcontractors, tenants, subtenants, licensees or sub licensees and their employees.
Join us at the Wilson Building on March 20th! Contact supportLRA2013@outlook.com for more information!
You can also contact the members of the committee that will be holding the hearing on the bill:
Vincent Orange (202) 724‐8174 firstname.lastname@example.org
David Grosso (202) 724‐8105 email@example.com
Jim Graham (202) 724‐8181 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary M Cheh (202) 724‐8062 email@example.com
Yvette Alexander (202) 724‐8068 firstname.lastname@example.org