February, 2014

Rising Up in Retail Facebook Page Launched for Retail Workers

Raise-the-Wage-LogoAlthough the retail sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States and an important employer of minorities and women, many retail workers are struggling to survive in low-wage jobs with inconsistent hours and little to no benefits. To help retail workers connect with each other, a Rising Up in Retail Facebook page has been launched at http://on.fb.me/1mvS9o4 so that workers can engage in online discussions about the challenges and issues they face in their stores and share solutions.

The new Facebook page also serves as a place where union and nonunion workers can help each other improve their jobs and build a larger network of workers and activists who support retail worker issues.


Gap’s Decision to Raise Wages Is a Challenge to Walmart

The recent decision by Gap Inc. to raise wages for its 65,000 hourly retail workers serves as a challenge to Walmart.  Gap realizes that paying its hourly workers enough to support themselves is a good business investment that benefits the economy, and it’s imperative the Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, follow its lead.

IMG_9432-300x200As the largest private employer in the country, Walmart can afford to pay its workers more.  The company made $17 billion in profits in the last fiscal year, and just six members of the Walton Family—heirs to the Walmart empire —have a combined family fortune that is estimated to be over $144.7 billion.  Their net worth is already greater than the wealth held by 42 percent of American families combined.

Academics at the University of California-Berkeley estimated that Walmart could well afford a wage increase to at least $12.00 an hour for workers with minimal impact on consumer prices. And a report from the think tank Demos shows that Walmart could easily provide workers with full-time jobs that pay a minimum annual wage of $25,000 without raising prices simply by reinvesting the billions it now spends repurchasing its own stock.

The time is now for Walmart to show leadership and responsibility to its workers and our communities by following Gap’s example and 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.



Expansion of NYC “Living Wage” Law Set to Help Retail Workers

UFCW/RWDSU staff and members are joining allies and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in support of the passage of a new bill that they are framing as an expansion of the “Living

Wage” law enacted in 2012. The new bill would bar retail tenants in developments that receive city subsidies from opposing efforts from workers to organize and join a union. In return, union members would promise not to picket the stores or call for work stoppages.

In his State of the City Address this week, Mayor de Blasio stated that he will push efforts to pass the new bill and improve working conditions and wages for workers in the city.

As an official supporter of the new bill, President RWDSU District Council of the UFCW Stuart Applebaum argues that even though the bill does not directly affect wages, through collective bargaining, workers can achieve not just higher wages, but steadier hours and better workplace conditions.

The current “Living Wage” law requires companies that receive city subsidies, and their on-site contractors or subcontractors, to pay workers at least $10 an hour plus benefits, or $11.50 without benefits, above the state’s minimum of $8 an hour. There are many exemptions to the current law, though, including companies with less than $5 million in annual revenue, manufacturing companies and companies that receive less than $1 million in subsidies.


Retail Justice Alliance Celebrates Black History Month

February marks the beginning of Black History Month–a time to remember and celebrate the rich history of African Americans and the achievements of the civil rights movement.

CSC_2317One of the greatest moments of the civil rights era was the March on Washington in 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech. The March on Washington was organized largely by civil rights and labor leader A. Philip Randolph and other black labor leaders to promote freedom, economic equality and jobs.  The march brought thousands of people of all races together, and paved the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In spite of the advances we have made, the fight for social and economic justice continues.  In the retail sector alone, which is an important employer of minorities and women, too many workers are struggling to survive in low-wage jobs with little to no benefits. The assault on workers’ rights continues to persist, and in many cases, retail workers who want to stick together to bargain for better wages and benefits are threatened, intimidated and sometimes fired by their employers.

The need to mobilize for freedom, jobs and economic equality has never been stronger, and the Retail Justice Alliance is honored to carry on the work of the 1963 activists by fighting for social and economic justice in the retail industry and in our communities.



Worker Asks New CEO McMillon: Will You Pay Us Enough to Care for Our Families?

The following is a letter from an Illinois Walmart employee and OUR Walmart member to Walmart’s new CEO Doug McMillon.

Dear Mr. McMillon:

As the new CEO of Walmart, you have a great opportunity to lead the company in a new direction by listening to and respecting workers who are standing together for positive change at Walmart.

ObamaSimonSays1.29I’m a 26-year-old Walmart worker from Chicago, Illinois, and hope to be a minister one day. I work an average of 32 hours a week in the meat department at Walmart’s Lakeview Neighborhood Market in Chicago, which adds up to about $13,000 a year. As you can imagine, I struggle to make ends meet.

I first started working at Walmart two years ago while still in college because I was promised a career with a company that values employees. Now I live with my grandmother, because I can’t afford a place of my own and have trouble affording the $200 a month I give her for living there.

I’m not alone. Too many Walmart workers make less than $25,000 a year and are forced to rely on public assistance for food, shelter and healthcare. That’s why I joined the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). Members of OUR Walmart 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.

As the largest private employer in the country, Walmart can and should pay its workers a decent wage. I’m writing to ask you if you’ll pay us enough to survive and take care of our families.

I hope you will listen to and respect us as Associates, so that we can make enough to support our families and contribute to our local economies and communities.


Richard Wilson
Walmart Associate & OUR Walmart Member
Chicago, Illinois

Worker Asks New CEO McMillon: Will You Give Us the Hours We Need to Survive?

Originally posted on Making Change at Walmart

Dear Mr. McMillon:

Worker-Question-Hours 2.4Welcome to your new role as Walmart’s CEO. I was heartened to hear that you recently attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss issues such as global income inequality. I believe income inequality is one of the most important issues of our time, and that’s one of the reasons I became a member of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart)—an organization that was formed by and for hourly associates in Walmart stores to help make our company a better place to work.

As a Walmart employee for over two years at the Placerville, California, store, I know firsthand how it feels to work hard and still struggle to make ends meet. I earn $9.80 an hour as a part-time employee—which adds up to about $12,000 per year—and live from paycheck to paycheck. I don’t have health insurance, and recently suffered a major economic setback because I got sick and had to pay $300 out of my own pocket to see a doctor.

Too many Walmart workers are just like me—struggling to survive on part-time hours and forced to rely on taxpayer programs for support. That’s why members of OUR Walmart 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.

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. As the new CEO, I hope you will take the time to meet with members of OUR Walmart to hear about our experiences and listen to our concerns.


Margaret Karch Hooten
Walmart Associat & OUR Walmart Member
Placerville, CA

Five Ways CEO McMillon Can Change the Direction of Walmart

Originally posted on Making Change at Walmart

BlackSheepFor two years Walmart workers have been bravely and courageously speaking out for change at Walmart. As Doug McMillon becomes the CEO of the largest private employer, there are five simple things he could publicly commit to do in order to improve the quality of jobs Walmart provides.

1)Pay workers a minimum of $25,000 a year.
Last fall, in an address to Goldman Sachs, Walmart US CEO Bill Simon bragged that “over 475,000 (Walmart) Associates earned more than $25,000 last year.” It looks like he didn’t count on us doing the math, because that leaves the vast majority – as many as 825,000 US workers – making less than just $25,000 annually. Walmart can afford to pay workers enough to raise a family if it chooses.

2)Schedule workers for enough hours so they can afford to care for their families.
While increasing hourly wages could help lift an enormous number of Walmart workers out of poverty, it is really only one piece of a two-pronged problem. Walmart considers fulltime work to be 32 hours a week and many workers don’t even get that. Many would like the opportunity to work fulltime, but Walmart has instead opted to use more part-time and temp workers. In order to really address the issue of poverty among its workers, Walmart needs to start giving workers the hours they need to be able to feed their families.

3) End illegal retaliation against workers who speak out for change.
Walmart is notorious for its anti-worker stance. This has led not only to worker dissatisfaction, but to legal woes as well. The National Labor Relations Board recently issued a complaint against the company for illegally retaliating against workers who speak out for change. After workers went on strike in the summer of 2013, in a calculated effort to discourage others from standing up, Walmart fired or disciplined more than 60 of those who participated. It is likely that Walmart will also face claims of defrauding contracted warehouse workers, many of whom have also reported experiencing retaliation.

4) Respect the people who work for you.
Chief among worker concerns is one shift that would cost the company nothing. Workers often note how they are bullied and treated disrespectfully at work. Changing this culture of intimidation would go a long way to improving labor relations. Best of all, it’s absolutely free!

5) Listen to your employees.
Along the same lines of respect, one of Sam Walton’s keys to success was his famous emphasis on listening to his employees. Many of the issues (unkempt and unstocked stores) that plagued Walmart in 2013 could have been avoided had home office had better communication with its workers.