WASHINGTON– The following statement was issued today by Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), in advance of an event in the White House in which First Lady Michelle Obama recognizes retailers who are willing to expand their business into under served areas. Walmart is among the attendees.
“The First Lady’s commitment to addressing childhood obesity in the U.S. is laudable and the UFCW commends her for her enthusiasm for such a worthy endeavor. But with income disparity between the rich and the poor at more extreme levels than during the Great Depression, Walmart must be held accountable for its track record of lower standards for millions of retail workers.
“Walmart is more responsible than any other private employer in our country for creating poverty-level jobs that leave workers unable to purchase healthy food or provide a good life for their families.
“I met Walmart Associate Girshreila Green last month who told me that she got her job at the inner-city Crenshaw Walmart in Los Angeles through the welfare-to-work program. And after three years of work and an excellent employment record at what she calls the ‘ghetto Walmart,’ Girshreila still has a welfare card in her pocket, right along with her Walmart I.D. and Walmart discount card.
“There is no economic justification that our nation’s largest private employer should pay wages so low that any of its employees qualify for public assistance. But the fact that tens of thousands of Walmart associates qualify and utilize food stamps, Medicare, and Medicaid is reason enough that the White House should join with our union and tell Walmart – enough is enough.
“Our national economic crisis is made worse by companies like Walmart suppressing wages for its 1.4 million hourly workers who live and work in communities across the country.
“Walmart claims it wants to open stores in urban markets like Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other major cities. Workers, community leaders and consumers in each of those cities have called on Walmart to commit to providing good jobs that pay wages high enough to improve the lives of workers in those cities. The fact is, when Walmart opens in a community, it replaces what were good jobs with poverty-level ones. Walmart continues to drive the cycle of poverty by lowering wage rates and preventing associates from lifting themselves out of economic insecurity.
“Millions of grocery workers serve communities of every income level and hold good jobs with fair wages, affordable health care, and a voice on the job. The White House should laud employers who are fueling economic recovery by creating good jobs where workers can afford to take care of their families and buy the healthy food their children deserve.”