President Obama’s decision to focus on income inequality during his State of the Union Address this week, along with his announcement that he intends to raise wages for federal contract workers to $10.10 per hour, was a step in the right direction for retail workers who have been fighting for better wages and benefits for the past few years. While income inequality is an issue that requires leadership from President Obama and Congress, leadership is also needed from big players in the business community. Walmart—the world’s largest retailer—is a good place to start.
Walmart’s low-wage, part-time business practices have helped to widen the gap between the rich and poor. While most Walmart workers struggle to get by on less than $25,000 a year, Walmart’s owners, the Waltons, are the richest family in America with as much wealth as 42 percent of Americans combined. A new report from Oxfam International titled Working for the Few found that the world’s 85 richest people, including four members of the Walton family, own the same amount as the bottom half of the entire global population.
That’s why, for the past few years, current and former Walmart workers who are members of OUR Walmart have banded together for a voice on the job. Since its inception, members of OUR Walmart have called on the retail giant 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. OUR Walmart members have also asked the retailer 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. These brave men and women have influenced other workers in the fast-food industry and beyond to stand together for better wages and benefits—actions that prompted President Obama to raise hourly wages for federal contract workers.
Members of OUR Walmart have launched a petition to meet with President Obama regarding their effort to improve working conditions at Walmart. To sign the petition, visit http://blackfridayprotests.org/.