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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