DALLAS – Walmart moms and other workers from four Walmart stores in the area walked off the job today in protest of the company’s illegal firings and disciplinary action against co-workers who have spoken out for better jobs for their families. The strike follows a series of events in Phoenix, AZ where Walmart moms tried to discuss their concerns of low pay directly with board chairman Rob Walton in his neighbourhood.
Citing the company’s low wages, erratic scheduling and retaliation against women, Walmart moms like Ashley Vargas in Dallas, joined workers, families and community supporters across the country calling on new Walmart CEO Doug McMillon to publicly commit to take the company in a new and better direction. As the largest employer of women in the country, Walmart workers help the company make $16 billion in profits a year and contribute to growing the wealth of the Waltons, the richest family in America.
“My family would be on the street if we didn’t rely on public assistance. It isn’t right that I work at the country’s largest employer but—because of Walmart’s low pay—must skip meals just so my kids can eat,” said Ashley Vargas, a mother who works at Walmart. “And it isn’t right that when brave moms like Barbara Collins spoke out about the problems at our stores, Walmart fired her. That’s why Walmart women like me are out here today: we won’t let Walmart’s illegal actions continue.”
The majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year – forcing many of them to rely on food stamps and other taxpayer-supported programs to get by. Working women—increasingly the breadwinners and decision makers in households—make up 57% of Walmart’s workforce and are often hit hardest by the employer’s poverty wages. A report out this week from Demos shows that if the nation’s largest retailers raised wages to $25,000 a year for full-time work, 437,000 women working in retail—and 900,000 people total—would be lifted out of poverty or near poverty. It also shows the GDP would grow an estimated $6.9 to $8.9 billion solely from women’s portion of the raise.
“Walmart has created a financial crisis for working women in this country,” said Rosemarie Reiger from Jobs With Justice. “ Women are the backbone of our communities, our families and our workforce, and when the largest employer of women pays poverty wages, it puts our entire economy out of balance. I’m proud to stand with the Walmart moms who are on strike today speaking out against Walmart’s illegal retaliation. Walmart needs to stop breaking the law and paying low wages—the strength of community depends on it.”
Worker shareholders who are OUR Walmart members —including many striking moms—are set to attend the company’s annual shareholder meeting this Friday, June 6 in Bentonville, AR to take their concerns directly to shareholders.
The annual shareholders meeting 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. Recently, Walmart upgraded its pregnancy policy after OUR Walmart members who are also shareholders submitted a resolution to the company about its discriminatory 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.
Recent policy changes come as same-store sales at Walmart have been negative for five consecutive quarters – in large part because many families do not have money in their pockets to shop at the company. Meanwhile, executives are moving the goal post to give themselves millions in bonuses despite missing performance targets.
As efforts for change Walmart gain traction, the company is on trial for breaking federal labor laws (the National Labor Relations Act) by violating workers’ rights. The National Labor Relations Board is prosecuting the company for illegally firing and disciplining nearly 70 workers who went on strike and shared their concerns with shareholders at the company’s annual meeting last year.
A new report from Americans for Tax Fairness shows that Walmart and the Waltons received tax breaks and subsidies to the tune of an estimated $7.8 billion in 2013. Marketplace recently revealed that Walmart is the biggest beneficiary of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps. Walmart takes 18 percent of all food stamp dollars—or $13 billion in revenue.