‘The Waltons are at the center of the income inequality problems that are hurting the global economy and all of our families,’ says worker
by Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams
Calling out one of the world’s richest families for perpetuating global inequality while reaping the benefits, Walmart workers in more than ten different countries are uniting on Wednesday in a global day of action for decent wages and respect at work.
With coordinated demonstrations planned in Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, the United Kingdom, India, Zambia, Hong Kong, and the United States, workers and allies are teaming up with international trade union UNI Global Union to expose Walmart’s bad labor practices throughout their stores, warehouses, and global supply chain.
“I’m working to build the profits of the richest family on the globe, while putting my safety at risk just to go into work,” said one unnamed supply chain worker in a press statement. “The Waltons need to see and hear what they are doing to families around the globe. It’s shameful.”
The demonstrators are calling on the Walton family—which own over 50 percent share of Walmart and are estimated to be worth a combined total of $152 billion—to publicly commit to paying the company’s 2.2 million retail workers and countless more supply chain employees a living wage.
Workers and allies are sharing images from the global day of action on Twitter under the hashtag #Walmartglobal.
Walmart has repeatedly come under fire from both workers and labor watchdog groups for paying poverty wages, forcing workers into part-time positions, bullying workers over scheduling issues, retaliating against those who speak out, and even coaching employees to take advantage of government social programs in lieu of worker benefits. In many states, Walmart employees are the largest group of Medicaid recipients. Further, as the world’s largest private employer, the company is also charged with perpetuating income inequality by establishing a low baseline for wages and worker benefits.
“The Waltons are at the center of the income inequality problems that are hurting the global economy and all of our families,” said Emily Wells, a Walmart worker in the U.S.
Among the actions on Wednesday, more than 200 people are expected to protest at the Walmart headquarters in Mexico City to denounce the company’s handling of recent corruption allegations; in Gurgaon, India hundreds of street vendors blocked the Walmart headquarters’ gates calling on the retailer to respect their rights by ensuring fair competition.
The demonstrations come a day after members of the OUR Walmart labor coalition briefed a congressional committee, including Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Congressman George Miller (D-Calif.), on how the employer is creating an economic crisis for American working families. Workers charge systemic abuse, including “low pay, manipulation of scheduling and illegal threats to workers have created a new norm across industries that makes it nearly impossible for workers to hold down second jobs, arrange child care, go to school or manage health conditions.”
On November 28, known widely as “Black Friday,” Walmart workers at over 2,200 stores across the U.S. are holding demonstrations calling for $15 dollars an hour wages and full-time work.
Also Wednesday, UNI Global Union nominated Walmart for the Public Eye Award’s “Lifetime Worst Corporation Award,” which is presented by Greenpeace and the Switzerland-based Berne Declaration, citing the retailer’s continuing refusal “to take responsibility for its supply chain” and for further “undermining effective industry reform,” even going so far as to argue in court that it should not be held legally accountable if suppliers violate its own internal labor standards.