Striking workers from Walmart’s largest distribution center in Elwood, IL were reinstated this week — at full pay — three weeks after Walmart subcontractor Roadlink suspended them in retaliation for a petition requesting better working conditions and a living wage, according to Chicagoist.com. Truthout.Org adds that management has also provided workers with requested safety provisions, including shin guards, and fans for cooling the warehouse, where temperatures sometimes reach as high as 120 degrees. Over 600 people came to deliver a petition with over 100,000 signatures, and show support for the striking workers at a demonstration on October 2nd, which was also attended by police in riot gear.
“Several dozen” Walmart employees from nine stores in and around Los Angeles, CA followed up on the Elwood, IL strike on October 4th to protest low wages, part-time schedules with no benefits, and “management’s frequent retaliation against employees who spoke up about working conditions,” according to an article in the New York Times. As Chris Hayes pointed on MSNBC last week, in reference to the New York Times piece, “several dozen [striking workers] is not national news, [but] anyone striking against Walmart is.” Nobody has ever gone on strike against Walmart since Sam Walton opened the first store back in 1962.
At 7:00 a.m. on the morning of the walk-out, more than 250 employees and supporters gathered at the Walmart Supercenter in Pico Rivera, CA for a rally. Speakers included prominent officials Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor María Elena Durazo, and State of California Assembly 58th District Representative and Majority Leader Charles Calderon, whose encouraging speech was delivered amidst loud cheers and applause:
You are the community that I went to Sacramento to represent, and I’m here today, as the second ranking member in the [CA State] Assembly to tell you that we stand with you. We will fight with you. We will fight for you. You can win the day.
You can watch the speech, as recorded by onlooker Richard Reynoso on his cell phone, in the video below:
The Huffington Post reports that on October 9th, the strike spread across the U.S. as 88 Walmart workers from 28 stores and warehouses in 12 states walked out, and are threatening a nation-wide strike on “Black Friday,” which occurs every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving and is the biggest shopping day of the year for retailers. While these recent developments could mean big trouble for the deep discount department store chain in the future, they don’t seem to be hurting Walmart very much, so far. In fact, Jessica Wohl from Reuters reports that during an October 10th meeting with investors at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, AR, the retailer projected 5-7% growth for fiscal years 2013 and 2014, and its stock price jumped to an all-time high of $76.81 per share (though it later closed for the day at a slightly more modest 75.42).
Yet, Dan Schladerman, director of the United Food and Commercial Workers union’s Making Change At Walmart campaign told Alice Hines from the Huffington Post that workers are walking out in major cities across the U.S., including: Dallas, TX; Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Sacramento, CA; Miami, FL; Orlando, FL: Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; and parts of
Kentucky, Missouri, and Minnesota. ABC News also reported that a crowd of over 200 “angry protesters” brought the unrest close to home as they gathered in front of Walmart’s Bentonville, AR headquarters for the annual investors’ meeting on October 10th. Dallas, TX activist Colby Harris adds, “We feel like if they refuse to listen to our proposition we will make sure that on Black Friday we will take action inside and outside of stores.”
Widespread discontent amongst workers struggling to make ends meet, combined with protests and strikes on “Black Friday” could cause trouble. On the other hand, given the levels of chaos, violence, and cut-throat competition that normally occur amongst desperate, bargain-hunting Walmart shoppers the day after Thanksgiving, people may not even notice any civil unrest that occurs.
To learn about ways you can become involved and show support for Walmart workers, visit Making Change at Walmart: Our Community. Our Future.