October, 2013

John Paul Ashton: Scraping By on Less Than $25K

Reposted from Making Change at Walmart

John Paul “JP” Ashton, is a 31-year old Walmart maintenance worker who makes approximately $20,000 a year and currently lives in Mt. Vernon, Washington. Originally from the Denver, CO area, Ashton, a father of two, began working at Walmart over five years ago to support his family.

“When I first started at Walmart I was told that it was a place where I could grow and have opportunities. I soon discovered that was not the case,” said Ashton. “People take being able to buy lunch for granted. I don’t need a fancy job but what I do need is a job that allows me to provide for my family, speak up about working conditions and needing better wages without fear of retaliation, and hopefully have more than $2 in my bank account after I pay my bills.”’

JP, who must walk 45 minutes to work (often in the snow), prides himself on being a provider for his family. Because he is one of the many Walmart workers who earn less than $25,000 a year, during his time with the mega retailer Ashton has had to, at times, rely on food banks to feed his family. Currently, he receives food stamps in order to put food on the table.

“No one wants to have to rely on food stamps to live and trust me I know how to budget the little money I make but at the end of the day because of what Walmart pays I have no other choice. It’s hard for me to understand how a company that makes all that money and a family that has over $144 billion can justify what they pay workers.”

Ashton, who enrolled in Walmart’s healthcare plan in order to provide insurance to his two children, brings home on average $1200-1400 a month. Often he is not able to pay his rent in full because his bi-weekly paycheck does not cover the full amount and because he walks to work he often has holes in shoes. While many in his situation would give up JP has taken a different approach. JP has decided to take stand and fight.

Ashton joined OUR Walmart because he wanted to have a voice on the job and the ability to speak with management about working conditions without fear of retaliation.

When asked what $25,000 a year would mean for him Ashton’s remark was simple, “Freedom…freedom to do more things for my children.”

“I don’t need or want much. Yes, it would be nice to have a car, maybe a house, it would even be nice to have more than $10 in my bank account. Sam Walton said ‘you treat employees right, treat customers right and we all make money.’ Walmart does not does not live up to that and I am going to keep fighting until they do.”

Patricia Locks: Scraping By on Less Than $25K

Reposted from Making Change at Walmart
Meet Patricia Locks from the Seattle area. She’s a 48 year old single mom who has worked at Walmart for 11 years. At $13.20 an hour, she works full time and barely makes $19,000 a year. She lives in low income housing, relies on food banks and food stamps to feed her teenage daughter and can’t afford health insurance.

A paycheck isn’t enough to cover rent, and she is only able to stay afloat because of a monthly child support check. “After I pay my rent, I have to decide which bills I absolutely must pay that month.”


Another Walmart associate’s story about making less than $12K annually

Following a recent stay in the hospital due to complications with her diabetes, Patricia was forced to file for bankruptcy. The alternative was for the hospital to take hundreds of dollars out of her paychecks indefinitely to cover the $21,000 hospital bill. That would have left her with almost nothing, so her only option was bankruptcy.

“It’s depressing and scary. No one who works for one of the world’s largest and wealthiest companies should have to live like this,” said Locks. “I don’t think it’s asking too much to earn enough so I don’t have to rely on food banks and other assistance to survive. And that’s why I am going to keep fighting because I want a better life me and my daughter.”

Read about more workers like Patricia each week as we release more stories from the majority of Walmart employees who struggle to get by on less than $25,000 a year.

Macy’s Plans to Kick Off Black Friday on Thanksgiving

Macy’s recently announced that for the first time, most of its 800 department stores will be open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

Macy’s decision to join a growing list of retailers that are kicking off Black Friday on Thanksgiving is not without controversy. Many retail workers and customers say that opening on Thanksgiving is cutting into family time and keeping retail workers away from their families on this important holiday.

In 2011, a Target worker named Anthony Hardwick made headlines by starting a change.org petition urging Target to save Thanksgiving and not open early for Black Friday. The petition got more than 100,000 signatures – but Target opened anyway.  Last year, Walmart decided to open its doors early at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and more than 30,000 people signed a moveon.org petition in protest.  On the days leading up to and on Black Friday, workers and members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) made history with strikes in more than 100 cities to protest Walmart’s attempt to silence workers who speak out for positive change.

2008 Labor Day -139 sendIt’s obvious that retail workers want a say in their scheduling, and that a lot of Americans agree they should have a choice – particularly when it comes to working on a celebrated American holiday like Thanksgiving.  But, as long as people are willing to stand in line outside in the cold for door busters and deals, retailers will be pushed to open earlier. And there’s only one way to ensure workers have a say in whether or not they work: a union contract.

Thousands of Macy’s workers across the country in New England, New York, Seattle, San Francisco and other areas are members of the UFCW and have a union contract that protects them on the job. Thanks to this contract, union workers at Macy’s have a powerful voice in their own scheduling and can decide whether they’d rather stay home on Thanksgiving or work extra hours. In fact, union stores in the New England, Seattle, and other areas won’t be open on Thanksgiving because their union contract protects this day as a paid holiday for workers. In other locations where workers have a union contract, workers can sign up to work on a volunteer basis. Where there aren’t enough volunteers, Macy’s is hiring seasonal employees.

No matter how people feel about whether it’s right or wrong to open on Thanksgiving Day, a union contract gives workers a chance to decide for themselves – and that’s just what’s happening. Many Macy’s workers have decided to work the shift because they want to put something aside for the holidays, and a Thanksgiving shift means they’ll earn the extra holiday or premium pay they negotiated in their contracts. Others have decided to stay home and celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with their families. This provision in the union contract is just one of the things that makes a union job at Macy’s one of the best retail jobs in the country.


OUR Walmart Members Stand with Strikers in Miami

Last week, over 80 Walmart workers frustrated by low wages, poor working conditions and mistreatment by management, walked off the job in Miami.  The strike comes on the heels of Walmart workers nationwide who have been standing up and speaking out for better jobs.  The Miami strikers join hundreds of Walmart workers who have been protesting to bring awareness and change Walmart’s poverty wages and acts of illegal retaliation against workers.

IMG_0886“Walmart workers nationwide have been standing up and speaking out for better jobs, better wages, and an end to Walmart’s illegal retaliation against workers who speak out,” said Paul Toussaint, a Miami area OUR Walmart member. “And these courageous strikers are in solidarity with Walmart associates across the country who have been calling for change, striking against retaliation and even been arrested in non-violent protest.  We’ve been calling on Walmart, a company that made nearly $17 billion last year, to pay us a wage of $25,000 a year so that we can live without having to rely on public assistance.  That’s what these strikers are fighting for and I am proud to stand with them.”

M.I.T. Professor Advocates for Better Jobs for Retail Workers

Zeynep Ton, an adjunct associate professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, recently spoke at a TEDx event in Cambridge, Mass., and delivered a provocative analysis of the economic advantages retailers can achieve by investing in their workforce. Drawing on a decade of research, Ton maintains that retailers such as Costco that invest in their employees—including higher pay, better benefits and schedules, and more training—have seen positive results, including healthy sales and profit growth, higher labor productivity, lower turnover and higher customer satisfaction.

Unfortunately, many retail employers have followed Walmart’s lead by skimping on hours and preventing full-time schedules so they won’t have to provide benefits to their workers.  This low-wage business strategy has, in turn, led to depressed earnings across the retail sector, as well as operational problems in stores, including out-of-stocks; a shortage of employees on the sales floor; and long checkout lines and wait times.

To view Ton’s lecture at the TEDx event, visit http://www.tedxcambridge.com/portfolio-item/zeynep-ton/.  Ton’s research and articles can be viewed at http://www.zeynepton.com/.

As the Holidays Approach, OUR Walmart Members Prepare for Black Friday Actions

BF2013Over the last year, Walmart workers and members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) have called on the retail giant to stop its practice of retaliating against workers who are simply exercising their right to speak out for a better life and improved working conditions. Their calls for change have been met with Walmart’s extreme response of firing and disciplining workers who speak out for positive changes in the workplace—leading many to seriously question the company’s relationship with workers throughout its supply chain.

Leading up to the holidays, members of OUR Walmart and community supporters will continue to call 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. Members of OUR Walmart are also calling for the rescission of all illegal firings and/or disciplinary actions against more than 70 workers who participated in a legally protected unfair labor practice strike in Bentonville, Arkansas, earlier this summer.

Friday, November 29—also known as Black Friday—is the most important day of the year for retailers like Walmart, and OUR Walmart members have announced widespread protests leading up to and on Black Friday this year. As Black Friday approaches, please commit to supporting OUR Walmart members as they take action this holiday shopping season by signing the petition pledging to join Walmart workers this year in their calls for change at http://action.changewalmart.org/page/s/black-friday-pledge.