Walmart workers demand justice; 42 arrested

Hundreds of Walmart associates and their supporters rallied in New York and Washington DC to demand that Walmart make a public commitment to pay fair wages that keep all of its workers out of poverty.

The New York rally was held at the Park Avenue apartment of Alice Walton, one of the Walton heirs who are the principal owners of the retail giant. The Washington DC rally was held in front of the Walton Family Foundation on K Street.

Delegations from the two rallies took a petition signed by more than 1,700 Walmart associates inside the respective buildings and attempted to deliver them. The petition demanded that Walmart pay a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour and provide more of its workers with access to full-time employment.

After the petitions were delivered, some of the protestors refused to leave, and 42 were arrested for acts of civil disobedience.

The protestors said that Walmart’s pay policies are a major reason that wealth inequality in the US has grown to the highest level since 1928.

While the average Walmart cashier makes about $8.81 an hour and 15 percent of Walmart’s employees qualify for food stamps, the Walton family fortune, according to Bloomberg, is worth more than $100 billion.

Every day, the Walton family takes in $8.6 million in dividends from Walmart stock.

Their accumulated wealth is more than the combined wealth of 43 percent of the US population.

“The Waltons have made it impossible for me to get ahead and make sure my daughter goes to bed in a warm home,” said Fatmata Jabbie, a member of OUR Walmart, a nationwide organization of Walmart associates that organized the petition drive and rally.  “The Waltons can choose to turn things around and stop robbing working Americans like me who just want to raise our families. We need $15 an hour and consistent full-time work—now.”

Jabbie was one of the demonstrators who delivered the petition to the Walton Family Foundation in Washington DC.

In addition to demanding higher pay and more work hours, the petition informed the Walton family that if Walmart did not make a public commitment to raising wages and making more full-time work available, members of OUR and their supporters were prepared to take more direct action.

“If you fail to respond by Black Friday, (November 28th) the biggest shopping day of the year, we will hold massive protests nationwide,” reads the opening paragraph of the petition.

The recent petition, rally, and civil disobedience are the latest actions in a campaign for better pay and working conditions at Walmart that began more than two years ago.

As a result of the campaign, things have begun to change at Walmart.

After a member of OUR who was mistreated by Walmart during her pregnancy organized a nationwide campaign exposing the company’s lack of compassion for its pregnant associates, Walmart changed its pregnancy policies to require store managers to make light duty available to all pregnant workers who request it.

One the biggest complaints voiced by OUR members has been the way the Walmart assigns shifts in such a way that keeps many workers from working full-time.

After a number of public protests that included unfair labor practice strikes at some Walmart stores, the company finally rolled out an application on a company website that makes it possible for workers to increase their work hours by signing up online for open shifts.

At their recent rally, OUR members were joined by community supporters who pledged to stand with them if the Walton’s and Walmart continue to ignore their workers’ demand for fair pay and work hours.

“We are tired of seeing the Waltons enjoy every luxury this world can offer while the workers that build their wealth are unable to pay their bills,” said Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Kim Bobo at one of the rallies. “Income inequality will only be addressed when the Waltons and Walmart provide fair pay and regular hours to their workers. I’m here today taking a stand for Walmart workers, and I’ll be back on Black Friday with thousands of others who have had enough of Walmart’s destruction of the American Dream.”

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