June, 2013

Macy’s Fined For Treatment of Immigrant Workers

source: Associated Press

source: Associated Press

On the same day that the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation, Macy’s agreed to pay a $175,000 civil fine to resolve a U.S. Department of Justice probe regarding its treatment of immigrant workers.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Macy’s allegedly engaged in unfair documentary practices against some immigrant employees, which is in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  The INA prohibits employers from demanding more or different documents, or changing documentation rules, based on people’s immigration status or national origin. In addition to the fine, Macy’s has agreed to set up a $100,000 fund to compensate these workers, and to improve training and revise its employment eligibility reverification policies regarding the legal status of workers.

For more information, visit http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/June/13-crt-724.html.

Retail Justice Alliance Stands with Walmart Workers

By Bill Fletcher, chair of the National Retail Justice Alliance

No matter who you are or where you are from, everyone has the fundamental right to come together and to speak out to improve their lives and the lives of their co-workers.

1000783_629325603746755_659815700_nLast Friday, Walmart illegally fired nearly a dozen workers who were simply exercising their right to speak out for a better life and improved working conditions.  These workers were members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), who traveled to Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., earlier this month to protest the company’s practice of retaliating against workers who speak out for change.

The company’s actions are not just limited to workers.  The retail giant is also bullying community groups as well by filing trespassing lawsuits in an attempt to keep concerned community members and faith leaders from exercising their right to speak out about what’s best for their community.

It’s unacceptable that a company with $16 billion in profits is bullying communities and working families who are just trying to make ends meet. Because of Walmart, we all pay the price. In fact, a recent report by the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that taxpayers pay nearly $1 million to subsidize Walmart’s race-to-the-bottom business model at a single store.

As the world’s largest retailer, 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. If Walmart would listen to—and respect—its 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.

 

At Yahoo Shareholders’ Meeting, Walmart Associates Call On Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to Help Change Walmart

Just Weeks after Protests at Walmart’s own Shareholders Meeting, Walmart Worker Questions Mayer’s Involvement on Walmart Board of Directors Confrontation Follows Five Arrests Monday at Walmart Associate-Led Protests at Yahoo Headquarters

 

Santa Clara, CA – Today, at Yahoo’s annual shareholders meeting Walmart Associates and their supporters used the opportunity to question Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer about her involvement as a member of Walmart’s Board of Directors. Workers and community members raised concerns about her involvement in decision-making at the nation’s largest private employer, which is facing pressure both from its employees and community groups over the company’s business practices at home and overseas.

1010188_629325537080095_907899806_nSeveral Walmart Associates, among them Barbara Collins, a Walmart associate from Placerville, California and member of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), a national organization of Walmart associates speaking out for a stronger company and economy, asked Marissa Mayer pointed questions about whether her involvement with Walmart represented a reputational risk for Yahoo. Collins was one of five people arrested at a dramatic protest on Monday at Yahoo Inc. headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. The protest called attention to Mayer’s silence as the retail giant bullies its employees.

Collins gave voice to growing concerns that Mayer and other members of Walmart’s board have remained silent even as the company contends with widespread protests against its treatment of its workers, plummeting customer service ratings and weak store sales due to understaffing, and preventable tragedies in the supply chain.

OUR Walmart members and supporters nationwide have been calling for the company to end retaliation against employees and publicly commit to providing full-time work with a minimum salary of $25,000 a year so workers don’t have to rely on taxpayer funded programs to support their families. As the nation’s largest private employer, a change of course at Walmart would have a direct impact on millions of working families and the economy as a whole.

“As a working mom, Marissa Mayer is a unique voice on the Walmart Board of Directors,” said Sarita Gupta, Executive Director of Jobs with Justice. “She can be an advocate for Walmart parents who are asking for regular schedules and enough hours to provide for their children. It’s time for her to recognize that too many Walmart workers have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet, and it’s time for a change.”

A new report released by the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that the costs to taxpayers at just one Walmart store as a result of inadequate wages and benefits is about $1 million.

In an outpouring of support at last week’s Netroots Nation, hundreds of progressive journalists, activists, and other supporters posted on social media photographs of themselves calling on Mayer to meet with Walmart workers and support their calls for change at the company.

Today’s events at the Yahoo shareholders’ meeting comes on the heels of Walmart’s own shareholders’ meeting, which was the focus of striking Walmart Associates’ “Ride for Respect.”  The “Ride for Respect” was a weeklong, nationwide caravan in the spirit of the civil rights movement during which workers and supporters traveled to Walmart’s shareholders’ meeting in Bentonville, AR to call for an end to retaliation against workers and voice the direct impact that Walmart is having on their lives and the economy.

“Walmart’s outrageous suppression of its workers’ freedom of speech shows just how far out of step this company is with American values of freedom and respect for hard work. It’s unacceptable that a company with $16 billion in profits is bullying working families just trying to make ends meet and keep food on the table,” said Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW). “We’re not going to stand for it – we’re going to stand up to Walmart’s illegal behavior until they stand down and respect workers’ rights to speak out.”

 

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UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.

 

 

Raising Wages = Raising Standards for Retail Workers

NYmembers-18The retail industry has been a major player in the recent jobs reports.  According to the Department of Labor, the retail sector added 28,000 jobs to the economy in May—building on the average of 20,000 new jobs per month over the prior 12 months.  For the millions of retail workers in this sector, this would be good news if these jobs came with decent wages and benefits that can support a family. But too many of them don’t.

Although the retail sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country, many retail workers are struggling to survive in low-wage jobs with inconsistent hours and few benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in the retail industry typically make about $25,000 per year—a far cry from the nation’s average annual pay of $45,790.

Academic studies, including last year’s report by Demos, provide quantitative evidence that retailers, workers and the U.S. economy can benefit if retail companies invest in their workforce.  According to the Demos report, raising wages for full-time retail workers at the nation’s largest retail companies (those employing at least 1,000 workers) would result in improving the lives of more than 1.5 million retail workers and their families who are currently living in or hovering above poverty.

The retail sector has an enormous influence on the standard of living for millions of Americans and our country’s economic outlook. It’s time for the leaders in this sector to step up and make sure that these jobs are good jobs with benefits that can support a family.

American Retail Workers Support IKEA Workers in Turkey and Beyond with Global Day of Action

IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, has been accused of falling short of its own worker policies in several countries outside of Sweden, thereby failing to live up to the company’s professed values outside the home market.  For the past two years, IKEA Turkey has run a campaign of intimidation, interference and coercion in response to its employees’ efforts to choose a union.

Participants in today's Day of Global Solidarity with IKEA workers show their support in Dublin, Ireland.

Yesterday, IKEA employees and their global supporters in a dozen different countries took part in actions against poor labor standards, management violations of freedom of association, and IKEA’s inconsistency in its approach to worker rights and labor relations.

The RWDSU and UFCW, both members of the UNI Global Union, are supporting the efforts of IKEA workers in Turkey and we encourage you to take a moment and read a recent op-ed on IKEA’s anti-union tactics.

It is time for IKEA to put an end to the practice of treating non-Swedish workers as second-class. All workers have the right to freely associate, and bargain collectively for improvements in the workplace, no matter which country that workplace is in.

New Report on Political Contributions Underscores Walmart’s Sharp Turn to the Right

Following the Hiring of Bush Administration Official to Lead External Affairs, 

 Walmart Heirs Donate Millions to Right-Wing Candidates, Anti-Gay Politicians, NRA Supporters

 

A new report issued Tuesday shows that Walmart and the Walton family that founded and controls the company have dramatically increased their political contributions over the last decade and that the vast majority of those contributions have gone to Republicans and right-wing causes, including anti-gay, anti-environment and pro-gun politicians and causes. The report asserts that Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, and the Walton family have spent over $17 million in federal elections and millions more on state and local initiatives. Since the 2000 election cycle, more than $11.6 million—69% of Walmart and the Waltons’ contributions—has gone to Republican candidates and committees. At the same time, 83% of the Waltons’ contributions, including their contributions to Super PACs, went to Republicans.

FireShot Screen #WalmartStrikers are exposing ___'The report, “An Analysis of Walmart and Walton Family Political Spending, 2000-2012,” comes after Walmart’s recent hiring of Dan Bartlett, a Bush Administration official known for his work in creating the “weapons of mass destruction” narrative, to replace Leslie Dach as Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs. Dach worked in the Clinton Administration.

“This new report highlights the degree to which Walmart and the Walton family use their considerable wealth to distort the political process,” said William Fletcher, a member of OUR Walmart and an Associate at the Walmart store in Duarte, California. “The Waltons are the richest family in the world. Instead of putting their money into fair wages for us Walmart workers, they instead pour millions into a right-wing agenda that has nothing to do with business and everything to do with their radical ideology.”

The report further underscores Walmart and the Waltons’ turn to the right and shows that political contributions doesn’t simply stop at supporting Republicans; in 2008, Jim Walton gave $75,000 to the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee, which at the time was supporting a ballot measure to prevent gay families from adopting. Meanwhile, 94% of the Walton family’s contributions to candidates from 2000 to 2012 went to those who were opposed to or silent on the issue of marriage equality.

Aside from their record of supporting anti-LGBT candidates, the Waltons and Walmart disproportionately contribute to candidates with low scores on civil rights, women’s issues, immigration, and those who oppose raising the minimum wage. The Waltons also support NRA-backed candidates; 76% of all their donations from 2000-2012 have gone to candidates or politicians with an A+ or an A from the NRA.

The Walton family, collectively worth $115 billion, has more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans combined. At the same time, despite more than $16 billion in annual profits and executives making 1,000 times more than the average Walmart employee, a new report released by the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that the costs to taxpayers at just one Walmart store as a result of Walmart’s inadequate wages and benefits is about $1 million.

Tuesday’s report was issued by Making Change at Walmart, a growing coalition challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families, and comes as a growing number of associates and supporters nationwide are calling for the company to end retaliation against employees and for the company to publicly commit to providing full-time work with a minimum salary of $25,000 a year so workers don’t have to rely on tax-payer funded programs to support their families.

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UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.

 

Bill Fletcher: I Stand with Walmart Strikers

Reposted from Making Change at Walmart:

The following is a statement of support from Bill Fletcher Jr., Chairman of the Retail Justice Alliance.

bill_fletcher“The bus ride to Bentonville is part of a larger journey for justice. Walmart’s response to the disaster in Bangladesh and the deaths of hundreds of Bangladeshi workers displays the same sort of arrogance that their actions in the USA contain.  The march on Bentonville is a march that not only focuses on those who work directly for Walmart but for those around the world who labor under greedy subcontractors producing products for sale at Walmart.  The march on Bentonville is a march for the millions in today’s U.S. workforce who suffer the sting of under-employment, piecing together jobs in order to survive and grow their families.  Walmart represents all that is wrong with the functioning of today’s economy, an economy that is great for the upper-crust, and is a juggernaut crushing the everyday working person.

“As the chairman of the Retail Justice Alliance I salute the Walmart workers and their allies who are standing up for economic justice, making sure that the titans of the retail industry hear their collective voice.”

Bill Fletcher Jr., chairman, Retail Justice Alliance; author/activist

Dr. E. Faye Williams Talks About “Subsidizing Sam’s Kids”

Dr. E. Faye Williams, chair of the National Congress of Black Women and a supporter of the Retail Justice Alliance, wrote about her recent trip to Bentonville, Ark., where she spoke at a rally in support of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart).  Members of OUR Walmart are taking a stand today at Walmart’s annual shareholders’ meeting to protest the company’s practice of retaliating against workers who speak out for change.  OUR Walmart members are also calling 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 hour.

SUBSIDIZING SAM’S KIDS
By
Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq.

My recent visit to Bentonville, Arkansas confirmed several thoughts I’d held for a long time.  First, Sam Walton is an extraordinary example of the American entrepreneurial spirit.  He built a virtual empire in the heartland of America from scratch with the belief that, “There is only one boss – the customer.  He can fire everyone in the store.”  His philosophy of creating wealth for himself and those who worked for him is reflected in his active encouragement of his store managers to invest in their stores and share in the profits.

Second, he launched a determined effort to find manufacturers who could supply American-made merchandise for the entire Wal-Mart chain at a price low enough to meet foreign competition.  In my distant memory, I can recall the proud declarations of “American-made” posted throughout Wal-Mart stores.

Sadly, the Walton heirs have departed from Sam’s founding principles to the detriment of the communities in which the stores are located, their employees and the image that Sam worked so hard to develop.  Because of this deviation from old principles and Wal-Mart’s declining public image, many progressive consumers refuse to patronize or support Wal-Mart.  This rejection of Wal-Mart patronage is, unfortunately, an effort in futility.  Although many may not cross the threshold of a Wal-Mart store, most tax-paying Americans subsidize Wal-Mart by contributing to the public assistance received by Wal-Mart’s working poor.

Because so many Wal-Mart employees are paid at a rate below the poverty level, we, the taxpayers, are forced to pick-up the tab for Wal-Mart’s failure to pay a living-wage.  It’s been estimated that each Wal-Mart employee may cost taxpayers up to $6000.00 per year.  Some of those costs include: paying for free-and-reduced meals for public school students; Section 8 Housing Assistance; Earned Income Tax Credit; Medicaid; Low Income Home Energy Assistance; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-Formerly the food stamp program).

While many Wal-Mart employees recognize the deficiency of their pay and would like to seek additional employment, a common complaint is of inconsistent work schedules.  Willing workers are prevented from seeking added sources of income because they find themselves bound to the job they have rather than gambling on the possibility of other employment.

While we, the taxpayers, subsidize Wal-Mart’s working poor, the wealth of six of the Walton heirs rose from $73.3 to $89.5 billion!  These six individuals own as much wealth as 41.5 % of all American families combined.  Indisputably, Wal-Mart’s profits don’t translate into improvements in the wages or benefits of its employees.  In November 2012, Wal-Mart ranked first among 12 companies paying Americans the least. It is obvious that Wal-Mart can do better by its employees.

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art by Miriam X (http://artistsvswalmart.tumblr.com/)

Wal-Mart’s employee compensation stands in stark comparison to one of its main competitors, Costco, which has a reputation of paying its employees a living wage and providing ample benefits.  The average hourly wage for a Costco employee is $21.96 per hour and 88% routinely work a sufficient number of hours to receive benefits associated with full-time employment.  The $8.81 paid to the average Wal-Mart employee seems woefully insufficient in comparison.  Factoring the large number of Wal-Mart employees who work less than fulltime schedules and receives no benefits, that $8.81 provides no financial security.

Sam Walton said, “Each Wal-Mart store should reflect the values of its customers and support the vision they hold for their community.”  It is time that we stand to prevent those who now manage Wal-Mart from distorting his vision.  We must not allow them to continue to use their financial power to subjugate those who seek a fair and living wage.  We must remove their hands from the pockets of taxpayers and demand they pay their fair share.  It’s up to you to determine how that objective will be best met.

OUR Walmart Members Take a stand at Retail Giant’s Shareholders’ Meeting

181280_465088263585536_203358837_nWalmart founder Sam Walton once said, “I’d still say that visiting the stores and listening to our folks was one of the most valuable uses of my time as an executive. But really, our best ideas usually do come from the folks in the stores. Period.”

Members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) could not agree more. Today, these brave men and women are taking a stand at Walmart’s annual shareholders’ meeting to protest the company’s practice of retaliating against workers who speak out for positive change in the workplace. Citing Walmart’s $16 billion in profits every year, OUR Walmart members are calling 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.

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. If Walmart would listen to—and respect—its 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.

For more information about OUR Walmart, visit http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/.