Community Leaders Arrested in Peaceful Civil Disobedience Call for Dignity, End to Exploitation
Nation Rallies Behind Walmart Workers; 1,500 Black Friday Rallies Mark One of Largest Mobilizations of Working Families in History
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Walmart workers and community supporters in the Washington, D.C. area today protested against Walmart—the nation’s largest retailer—joining 1,500 protests across the nation in one of the largest mobilizations of working families in American history. Workers in the Washington, D.C. area were joined by tens of thousands of Americans in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, Sacramento, Miami, Minneapolis and other locations who called on Walmart to end illegal retaliation and publicly commit to improving labor standards, including providing workers with more full-time work and $25,000 a year.
At a protest at the Walmart store located on Richmond Highway in Alexandria, Va., nine people, including one Walmart worker, were arrested in an act of civil disobedience calling for an end to the exploitation of Walmart workers by their company.
“The support we’re seeing for Walmart workers across the country is overwhelming,” said Tiffany Beroid, who works at a Walmart store in Laurel, Md. “I’ve worked at Walmart for two years and earn less than $25,000 a year. As a wife and mother, I’ve had to depend on food stamps to get by, and that’s unacceptable. As the largest employer in the country, Walmart can and should pay its workers a living wage.”
Many UFCW Local 400 shop stewards from Giant, Safeway and Shoppers Food and Pharmacy came out to support the Walmart workers fight for justice and respect on the job.
“This fight is our fight,” said Kuljeet Rathmore, UFCW Local 400 shop steward and member from Safeway #1417. “Walmart sets the standards for retailers across the board and as a retail food worker for 13 years I am here today show my solidarity with these brave Walmart associates, who are standing up for their rights. We’re in the thick of bargaining with Giant and Safeway and they are little by little trying to become the next Walmart by only caring about their bottom line and not the people who make their companies successful.”
Workers, emboldened by news from Walmart CEO that hundreds of thousands of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year, are receiving an outpouring of national support. Responding to revelations last week that a Walmart store held a food drive for their own employees; customers, community groups and clergy are citing Walmart’s business model as they join workers at nationwide protests. The country’s largest retailer and employer, Walmart makes more than $17 billion in profit, with the wealth of the Walton family totaling over $144.7 billion – equal to that of 42 percent of Americans.
“Walmart can and should lead the way in making sure that retail jobs are good jobs—the kind that come with good benefits and wages for all workers,” said Mackenzie Baris, a field organizer with Jobs with Justice/American Rights at Work. “If Walmart would listen to—and respect—its 1.4 million workers, it could not only reverse the downward trends that have plagued the company, it could also help to rebuild our country’s economy and strengthen America’s middle class.”
As calls for change intensify, academics, business experts and think tanks are presenting ways that Walmart can increase workers’ wages without costing taxpayers, customers or the business a dime. A Fortune article pointed to investors wanting change – Walmart could easily raise wages by 50 percent without affecting its stock value. And public policy organization Demos released a report this week finding that Walmart could easily pay every employee $14.89 without raising prices by simply not buying its own stock to further enrich the Walton family.
For updates on how the actions are going around the nation follow #WalmartStrikers on Twitter!