Organizers say Thursday’s planned protest of alleged corporate retaliation will be the largest action since Black Friday.
On a national day of action this Thursday, Walmart workers and their supporters will protest outside Walmart stores in 15 U.S. cities, demanding the reversal of disciplinary actions taken against 80 employees who participated in previous protests. The Nation reports that the upcoming demonstration will likely be the largest single-day protest since Black Friday protests last year, an action that saw hundreds of Walmart employees and thousands of supporters picket outside Walmart stores on the busiest shopping day of the year.
Only a few hundred of Walmart’s 1.3 million-strong U.S. workforce have participated in demonstrations, but those who have decided to go on strike have faced punishments, including termination of at least 60 workers from California who took part in a protest outside the Walmart general shareholders meeting in June.
Walmart spokespeople claim that the terminations have nothing to do with the strike and stem from unrelated workplace performance issues. “None of these associates received discipline without repeated prior feedback, notices, and warnings,” said Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg in a written statement to Sacramento Press. “Our decision had nothing to do with a specific protest.”
Terminated workers tell a different story. “I got fired because I went on an unfair labor practice strike. They are blatantly breaking federal laws that protect us,” Barbara Collins, a former Wal-Mart worker in California, told Mint Press News.
Since the terminations, OUR Walmart, an advocacy group helping to organize workers, filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that the terminations were illegal because workers had given store management notice of their participation in an unfair labor practices strike.
OUR Walmart states that workers are demanding a “minimum pay of $13 per hour, full-time jobs available for Associates who want them” as well as “predictable work schedules and affordable health care.”
Walmart claims to pay hourly employees an average of $12.83 per hour. Independent advocacy groups like Making Change at Walmart put the figure much lower, claiming that the average wage is actually $8.81 per hour.
Can Walmart afford to give its workforce a living wage? The numbers show that the retailer continues to be profitable even in a struggling economy. Walmart’s net sales totaled almost $444 billion for 2012, and profits are up through the first two quarters of 2013 as well.
Regardless of the actual average pay, a growing number of employees now say that their wages barely cover rent, gasoline, clothing and other essentials. “Gas is so expensive. Sometimes I feel that I am only earning enough to pay for the gas that allows me to drive my car to my job,” Dulce Garcia, a Walmart warehouse worker, told the Guardian. “I do not earn enough. I cannot survive like this.”