Stand Up, Live Better: Walmart Workers Launch First-Ever Extended Strike (VIDEO)

Stand up. Live better. Our Walmart. Organization United For Respect.

While Walmart workers struggle to eat, pay their bills, and be treated like human beings, the richest family in America tries to bully them into silence. Image from  Walmart worker Barbara Gertz’s petition for OurWalmart.

Meet Barbara Gertz, a struggling Walmart worker from Denver, Colorado. She wants you to sign her petition, which is asking the top brass at Walmart to treat their associates fairly, pay a living wage, and to not retaliate when workers speak out:

Dear Walmart CEO Mike Duke:

I am a Walmart Associate, and I am standing with striking workers and calling on you to publicly commit to raise wages and increase access to full time hours so that no workers at Walmart make less than $25,000 per year and stop trying to silence us when we speak out.

Walmart is among the most profitable companies in the US and is owned by the Walton Family, the richest family in America, yet many Associates at Walmart must rely on food stamps and even go hungry because of low wages and a lack of hours.

Walmart can do better. You can start to solve these problems by treating us — your Associates — with respect, paying us a living wage, and providing us with the hours we want and the staffing levels you need — and not silencing us when we speak up for our rights.

I urge you to do so.

This sounds entirely reasonable. After all, other retailers — like Trader Joe’s and Costco — manage to rake in beaucoup bucks while paying higher wages and treating workers like human beings. Josh Eidelson from The Nation reports that Walmart’s associates led the latest charge in their ongoing battle with Sauron the big box retailer by launching a historical, first-time-ever, multi-day extended strike:

Walmart employees are on strike in Miami, Massachusetts and the California Bay Area this morning, kicking off what organizers promise will be the first “prolonged strikes” in the retail giant’s history. The union-backed labor group OUR Walmart says that at least a hundred workers have pledged to join the strikes, and that some workers walking off the job today will stay out at least through June 7, when Walmart holds its annual shareholder meeting near Bentonville, Arkansas.

The striking workers may also be joined by workers from other states. According to a press release from Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) sent to Common Dreams, the main reason for the strike is to protest Walmart’s retaliating against workers who speak out against unfair practices that harm employees, their families, customers, and the company as a whole:

Despite Walmart workers’ struggle to support their families, plummeting customer service ratings and weak store sales due to understaffing, and preventable tragedies in the supply chain, Walmart has attempted to silence these voices through illegal retaliation, meritless lawsuits, and even firing workers.

OurWalmart also produced a video that … um … strikes closer to home. “Why are Walmart workers standing up across the country?” shows ordinary people with compelling — and often heartbreaking — reasons for why they want us to join them in “standing up to live better.” It’s hard to tell whether these people are exceptionally brave, feel so smacked down they’ve got nothing to lose, or a combination of the two. Since our slow economy makes many of us fearful and conflict-averse, it’s amazing that anyone speaks out at all. But in a way, it makes sense. If many of the the higher-paying manufacturing and white collar jobs are going away, then the jobs that are left will eventually need to pay more. Especially now that companies like Walmart and the Gap are forcing Americans to compete against underpaid, unprotected, desperate factory workers in third-world countries, whose working conditions are appalling. Otherwise, consumers will no longer be able to afford to buy anything — not even at Walmart.

Here are 20 reasons from Walmart workers for why they’re going on strike:

  1. Because we live in America and work for the world’s largest company, and we’re still not making it.
  2. Because I have to choose between paying my bills and having enough to eat.
  3. Because I’m 52 years old and can’t afford my own apartment working at Walmart.
  4. Because management bullies us and causes unnecessary stress.
  5. Because I’m tired of working for a company where workers get cheated, and cheaters get rewarded.
  6. Because I want a better life for my son.
  7. Because my management disrespects me in front of customers.
  8. Because I’m tired of seeing my coworkers discouraged and mistreated.
  9. Because of favoritism and unfair scheduling.
  10. Because the Walton family has as much wealth as 45 million American families.
  11. Because long-term associates are being fired.
  12. Because I’m tired of my store manager calling my associates stupid.
  13. Because they don’t treat me like a human being.
  14. Because my fellow associates have to use our local food pantry.
  15. Because we have to depend on each other, check by check, and borrow money from each other just to get through the week.
  16. Because I love my job, but I hate being treated unfairly.
  17. Because when we speak out, Walmart retaliates.
  18. Because if I weren’t able to live with family, I would have to choose between healthcare and food.
  19. Because we are people, not cattle.
  20. Because I want my mom to be treated with respect.

Here’s the video:

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