Members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) are planning to send civil rights movement–style caravans of workers from around the country to Walmart’s June 7 annual shareholders’ meeting in Bentonville, Ark., to protest the company’s practice of retaliating against workers who speak out for change.
Citing Walmart’s $16 billion in profits every year, OUR Walmart members have called on the company to publicly commit to raising wages and increasing access to full time hours so that no worker at Walmart makes less than $25,000 per year. Though Walmart has paid lip service to workers’ concerns since the historic Black Friday strikes last fall, the company has yet to take meaningful action to address the problems plaguing associates and customers at stores across the country.
“While the Walton family has the wealth of 42 percent of American families combined, many associates like me can’t even support our families without relying on government support,” said OUR Walmart member Mary Pat. “In addition to low pay, the company’s scheduling practices leave many of us with inadequate and erratic hours—making it impossible to afford even basic necessities or even find a second job.”
Several days before the shareholder meeting, “Ride for Respect” caravans will leave from cities across the country, including Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Miami, Orlando and Baton Rouge, among others. As OUR Walmart members make their way to Bentonville, Ark., they will hold actions at Walmart stores, talk to associates about OUR Walmart, and also stop to meet with local unions and supportive community organizations.
Los Angeles Walmart worker Tsehai Almaz said that she and other OUR Walmart leaders were inspired to follow the example of the 1961 freedom riders. “I feel like we’re facing many of the same issues,” said Almaz, “it’s about respect, and being able to feed our families, and having good working conditions.”“Walmart Board Members like Rob Walton and Greg Penner of the Walton family, Marissa Mayer and Aida Alvarez can do so much more to be leaders in this company and to help change the way Walmart treats workers. We’re telling them that silence is no longer an option,” said OUR Walmart member Colby Harris.
Calls for a change of course and leadership at Walmart have grown in recent months, as the company faces allegations of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations abroad and scrutiny in the U.S. over empty shelves and long lines caused by inadequate staffing.
For more information, visit http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/