Montressia Williams’ Walmart co-workers think she is on vacation, but her trip to New York is anything but.
The trip, paid for by labour organisers, is a part of the national protests to demand better wages, schedules and treatment for low-wage workers at retailers like Walmart and McDonald’s. Thursday’s protests, which started with a march on McDonald’s and ended in front of Alice Walton’s New York condo, were organised by groups like Our Walmart, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, New York United and Retail Action Project.
While most of the signs asked for $15 hourly wages, there were other issues weighing on Williams’s mind – like healthcare and her spotty schedule.
“Because I am part-time right now, they are taking away my health benefits. I already don’t get dental and now I am not going to have health insurance,” she said, concerned about what this would mean come January and whether loss of insurance would translate into a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. “I don’t even know if I am eligible for Obamacare or anything.”
At 34, she has been with Walmart for 14 years now. Even though she earns $13.71 an hour, more than most Walmart workers, she still struggles to make ends meet.
Us Money protest higher minimum wage Montressia Williams isn’t worried about being penalised for participating in the protests. ‘It doesn’t even matter. If it’s my time to move on, it’s my time to move on,’ she said about the possibility of being fired. Photograph: Jana Kasperkevic/The Guardian
“They cut my hours really bad. I get a 50-cent raise every single year. I earn that when I come in with a good attitude,” she explained. Raising her hands to demonstrate a scale, she continued: “Every time Walmart gives me a 50-cent raise on this hand, on the other hand they take it away a different way. They are leaving me to have a paycheck that is $300 to $400 every two weeks.”
“At Walmart, it doesn’t take too long to advance beyond the minimum-wage level,” Kory Lundberg, a spokesman for Walmart, told the New York Times. Higher wages, however, mean little if one’s hours are reduced or if they come with reduced benefits.
The goal of the march was to bring attention to the “poverty wages that low-wage workers all around the country have to endure at the hands of corporations that make billions of dollars”, says Kercena Dozier, a 34-year-old community organiser for New York United.
Jana Kasperkevic writing in Struggling workers take wage protest to upscale doorstep of Walmart heiress Alice Walton for The Guardian.
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Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio).
Imagine this: you work at Walmart, where you make $800 a month. Then the company asks you to spend $50 to buy clothes that meet its dress code.
That’s what happened this month. Walmart workers, who are already struggling to make ends meet, and who often rely on food stamps to get by, have to buy polo shirts and khakis in specific colors.
It’s a great way to help the company meet its financial targets, if nothing else.
“Walmart’s new uniform policy is likely to bring Walmart $50 to $100 million to help boost struggling sales. Meanwhile, the Waltons could pay for new uniforms for every store employee with about six days of earnings from their Walmart shares,” Organization United for Respect (OUR) Walmart, a union-backed group, wrote on their Facebook page.
The goal, according to the Walmart dress code announcement obtained by Gawker, was to: help customers easily find us (to understand who’s shopping and who’s working); and to help drive teamwork, customer service, and sales.
The company didn’t say why teamwork or customer service require every employee to be part of a well-coordinated army of retail robots.
Forget whether this is smart. Is it legal?
Jana Kasperkevic writing in Walmart orders underpaid staff to cough up for new uniforms. Is it legal? in The Guardian.
I received this email this week from Nicole:
My name is Nicole Nelson and I serve on the John Hanson Montessori Parent Teacher Student Association. For the past four years, we have fought the approval of a Super Walmart less than two feet away from our children’s school and have been successful, but Walmart and the developer has returned. The Prince George’s County Planning Board has given the project a green light. We are now gearing up for a legal challenge in circuit court and need financial assistance.
We are asking you to share this GoFundMe link the following link with your membership and social media followers . We are asking for donations as little as $5 and as much as $50. Any donation can help us reach our goal. I have provided links to articles about our journey. Please help us. The video on our page [below, JH] shows the close proximity of the proposed Super Walmart.
Nicole provided the three links below to stories in local media concerning the Walmart.
A proposal to build a Walmart on Oxon Hill Road was approved 4-1 on May 24 by the Prince George’s County Planning Board, but parents of students at the neighboring John Hanson Montessori School say they will appeal the decision to the County Council.
“Despite us voicing our concerns, I don’t think they know the ramifications of the project,” said Nicole Nelson, president of the school’s parent-teacher-student association who cited concerns about increased traffic and crime as well as health effects of construction and traffic. “My biggest concern is the crime… . To cram a Walmart right beside us is unconscionable.”
Three parents spoke against the proposed Walmart on May 24, and almost 100 submitted letters were presented urging the board to vote down the proposal, Nelson said.
Abby Brownback writing in Oxon Hill development near Hanson Montessori OK’d despite parents’ protests for the Gathersburg, Maryland Gazzete.
Wal-Mart has taken another step in its quest to open a Supercenter in Oxon Hill, about a mile from National Harbor.
The chain has submitted an application to Prince George’s County for the construction of a 100,310-square-foot store on 15 acres of vacant land owned by the Peterson Cos. adjacent to John Hanson Montessori School, on Oxon Hill Road near Indian Head Highway.
Wal-Mart pitched the plan two years ago, with the goal of opening the store this year, but the proposal was delayed in the planning approval process because County Council members had issues with the design. The chain worked to redesign the store to address concerns about traffic and safety from council members and residents who said the proposed store was too close to the school.
Luz Lazo writing in Wal-Mart resumes pursuit of Oxon Hill site for the Washington Post.
Students and faculty at two schools in Prince George’s County are maneuvering to stop plans for a proposed Wal-Mart store in Oxon Hill that would sit next door to the schools.
Developers are proposing a 100,000 square-foot Wal-Mart Super Center for the site near the intersection of Oxon Hill Road and Clipper Way. The store would abut two schools in Prince George’s County – Oxon Hill High School and John Hanson Montessori School. The store will be a part of the Potomac Business Park, a site being developed by the Fairfax,Va.-based Peterson Companies, which also developed National Harbor.
But students said they’re concerned about the impact the neighboring store will have on own their school. Parents at John Hanson Montessori School joined students and staff at Oxon Hill High School in October for a protest near the proposed site of the store and are now petitioning the county council to deep-six the project.
“It’s unconventional to put [a Wal-Mart] next to an elementary school and a high school,” said Gabrielle Headly, 16, a student journalist at Oxon Hill High. “There has been a lot of anti-Wal-Mart things being done.”
Joshua Garner writing in Students Push to Halt Planned Wal-Mart for the The Washington Informer.
Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.Walmart,Wal-Mart
You can follow the link in the cartoon back to the blog of Mano Singham, a friend and one of my favorite bloggers. Mano wrote late last week on The infuriating arguments against raising the minimum wage. I agree that the arguments are infuriating, but I do not think that raising the minimum wage is a long-term solution.
From Mother Jones:
In case you haven’t noticed, Black Friday isn’t just on Friday anymore. The retail industry’s high-density mass of starry lights, Santa dioramas, and door-buster shopping deals really ought to be renamed the Black Hole—it just keeps sucking up everything around it. That holiday known as Thanksgiving? Pretty much gone. Especially if you work for one of the nation’s largest retailers.
In 2006, Bart Reed, Best Buy Co.’s consumer marketing director, told the Charleston Gazette that the company had decided not to open its stores any earlier than 5 a.m. on Black Friday because it wanted to give its employees a “work-life balance.” Then, five years later, Best Buy moved its Black Friday opening back to Thursday at midnight. This year, for the first time, it will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Best Buy is far from alone in its cold-hearted greed.
The National Labor Relations Board General Counsel is issuing a decision today to prosecute Walmart for its widespread violations of its workers’ rights. The decision will provide additional protection for Walmart’s 1.3 million employees when they are speaking out for better jobs at the country’s largest employer.
The Board will prosecute Walmart’s illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June, according to the decision.
The decision addresses threats by managers and the company’s national spokesperson for discouraging workers from striking and for taking illegal disciplinary actions against workers who were on legally protected strikes. Workers could be awarded back pay, reinstatement and the reversal of disciplinary actions through the decision; and Walmart could be required to inform and educate all employees of their legally protected rights.
This story just hits too close to home. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
The storage containers are attractively displayed at the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton. The bins are lined up in alternating colors of purple and orange. Some sit on tables covered with golden yellow tablecloths. Others peer out from under the tables.
This isn’t a merchandise display. It’s a food drive – not for the community, but for needy workers.
“Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” read signs affixed to the tablecloths.
The food drive tables are tucked away in an employees-only area. They are another element in the backdrop of the public debate about salaries for cashiers, stock clerks and other low-wage positions at Walmart, as workers in Cincinnati and Dayton are scheduled to go on strike Monday.
Is the food drive proof the retailer pays so little that many employees can’t afford Thanksgiving dinner?
Hmmmm… Could be.
The story gained national attention with Bill Moyers & Company picked it up.
…[T]he lower end of our labor market is hopelessly broken, with full-time workers unable to make ends meet.
Wal-Mart’s profits, like those of other low-wage employers, are already subsidized with public assistance that allows their workers to get by. Studies have found that a single Wal-Mart store in Wisconsin costs taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.7 million per year in public benefits.
As I wrote recently of McDonald’s workers’ reliance on the safety net, “This isn’t how a ‘free market’ is supposed to work. These workers are selling their labor for less than the cost of production — less than what it takes to provide basics like food, shelter and health care. Low-wage employers are in turn keeping the cost of their products artificially low by socializing a chunk of their labor expenses.”
That Walmart sucks on the public teat by shifting its healthcare costs to Medicaid is no story for regular readers of The Writing On The Wal, but The Huffington Post yesterday, citing yet another infamous Walmart Healthcare memo, has lit a fire under the story by referencing the rallying cry of The Tea Party: Obamacare.
Alice Hines writes:
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, plans to begin denying health insurance to newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.
Under the policy, slated to take effect in January, Walmart also reserves the right to eliminate health care coverage for certain workers if their average workweek dips below 30 hours — something that happens with regularity and at the direction of company managers.
While Huffington Post did not link to a copy of the memo, the communication is likely not dissimilar to the infamous 2005 memo.
Walmart – the trendsetter for big-box retailers – is also doing well. And it pays its executives handsomely. The total compensation for Walmart’s CEO, Michael Duke, was $18.7 million last year – putting him number 82 on Forbes’ list.
The wealth of the Walton family – which still owns the lion’s share of Walmart stock — now exceeds the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of American families combined, [emphasis mine, JH] according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.
Last week, Walmart announced that the next Wal-Mart dividend will be issued December 27 instead of January 2, after the Bush tax cut for dividends expires — thereby saving the Walmart family as much as $180 million. (According to the online weekly “Too Much,” this $180 million would be enough to give 72,000 Wal-Mart workers now making $8 an hour a 20 percent annual pay hike. That hike would still leave those workers making under the poverty line for a family of three.)
While, strictly speaking, this story I wrote this morning does not address Walmart, I feel that the narrative’s message is applicable.
What does the drama in Washington over the “fiscal cliff” have to do with strikes and work stoppages among America’s lowest-paid workers at Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Domino’s Pizza?
Tell your representatives in Washington to stop sucking up to very richest of Americans and start acting responsibly for the rest of us.
No. The Yale Law Journal does not mention Walmart, but my journalist’s/political observer’s gut tells me that political, captive-audience workplace meetings like those already utilized by the Koch Brothers cannot be far off for Walmart associates.
Citizens United has wrought widespread changes in the election law landscape. Yet, a lesser-known consequence of this watershed case might have a significant impact in the workplace: it may permit employers to hold political captive audience workplace meetings with their employees. Under Citizens United’s robust conception of corporate political speech, employers may now be able to compel their employees to listen to their political views at such meetings on pain of termination.
Could enough Walmart associates actually walkout on Black Friday to make a dent in Walmart’s billions? Of course not. Even if every store in the United States shut down on that day, sales would resume the next day. The protest is symbolic, but one hell of a gesture.
Unfortunately, this video refuses to embed and function properly. You may still watch the report here.