June, 2014

Walmart Workers Draw Attention to Marissa Mayer’s Stance on Workers’ Rights at Yahoo’s Shareholders Meeting

10497916_901782979838759_6680862683972847637_oToday, Walmart workers who are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) are attending Yahoo’s annual shareholders meeting to draw attention to Yahoo CEO and Walmart board member Marissa Mayer’s refusal to speak out against Walmart’s illegal attempts to retaliate against workers who speak out for positive change.

What’s worse, it looks like Mayer is doubling-down on her ties to Walmart. Today, she’s nominating former Walmart CEO Lee Scott—who played a key role in limiting internal investigations related to Walmart’s alleged bribery of foreign officials—to join the board of Yahoo.

It’s bad enough that Mayer won’t stand up for workers’ rights, but now she’s spreading Walmart’s business model to the tech world.  Please sign a petition calling on Mayer to stand up for workers’ rights or step down from Walmart’s board. 

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WALMART MOMS ATTEND WHITE HOUSE SUMMIT ON WORKING FAMILIES

speak-up-300x200This week, Walmart moms who are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) attended the White House Summit on Working Families.  They spoke with attendees about their concerns regarding the retail giant’s low-wage, part-time business practices.

Walmart is the largest employer of women in the country, and it’s low-wage, part-time business practices have put a financial strain on too many Walmart women and their families.  The majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year and many Walmart workers, including women who are the sole breadwinners and decision-makers for their families, have been forced to rely on food stamps and other taxpayer-supported programs to survive.

Charmaine Givens-Thomas, a Walmart mom who attended the White House summit, launched a petition last year asking President Obama to make good on his promise to tackle income inequality and meet with Walmart workers that are calling for better jobs and an end to illegal retaliation. The petition has over 200,000 signatures.

“Walmart moms like me are living the reality of the income inequality the president has been talking about,” said Givens-Thomas, a mother and grandmother who has worked at Walmart for over eight years and only makes $23,000 a year. “We want the president to meet with us to hear how Walmart is fueling the income equality crisis—and how the company could easily fix this problem by providing full-time work for at least $25,000 a year.”

To sign the petition asking President Obama to meet with Walmart workers, visit http://action.changewalmart.org/page/s/mainstreetpresident.

Women and Families Benefit From Union Membership, New Study Finds

ceprA new report from the Center for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR) finds that women and families benefit from union membership both economically and in terms of family and medical leave.  The new report, titled “Women, Working Families, and Unions,” suggests that women across all education levels who are union members earn, on average, 13 percent more than non-union women even in typically low-wage occupations such as office cleaners.  In addition, women who are union members are also more likely than non-union women to receive health insurance benefits through their job and have access to all forms of family and medical leave.

According to the CEPR report, over 45 percent of all unionized workers are women, and if recent trends continue, women are projected to grow into half of the union workforce by 2025.

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“The White House Summit on Working Families Needs to Hear Worker Voices”–A Guest Blog by OUR Walmart Member Bene’t Holmes

Benet-150x150As a 25 year old single mother I know the realities of trying to survive on low wages. I live with my five-year old son in Chicago and I work for Walmart, the world’s largest private employer and a company that made over $16 billion in profits last year.  In the nine short months I have worked for the giant retailer, my heartbreaking experiences have driven me to take action and stand up for pregnant and working mothers.

I work hard every day in hopes of a better life for me and my family. Achieving the American dream, while working at Walmart is nearly impossible. I have four family members who either still work or have worked for Walmart and all of us have been left wanting jobs with an employer that values our work, respects our voice, and provides real opportunity to earn a living. I have firsthand knowledge of how difficult it is being stuck in a cycle of low wages and unstable schedules that prevent me and other workers from getting ahead and being independent.

I struggle to take care of my family on the poverty wages I earn working for Walmart. I work full-time and make under $9 an hour, which comes out to only about $15,000 a year. Because of my low wages, I cannot afford a home for my family and must rely on others to survive. Despite my best efforts to be financially independent, I recently had to apply for food stamps. And that is just of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my struggles working for Walmart.

In February of this year, I suffered one of the most devastating losses of my life. I was four months pregnant when I asked my manager for job duties that were less physically demanding.  I knew that the work I was performing was putting excessive strain on my body. Even though a doctor said I needed to work light duty, my manager denied my request and the next day I had a miscarriage while at work.

I asked for a leave of absence after the miscarriage to recover and was denied that request as well. To add insult to injury, my managers attempted to discipline me for my absences. Besides feeling betrayed by Walmart I questioned how a company that champions family could be so cold and heartless when one of its own employees is dealing with a tragedy.

I had to act—no woman should ever be put in that position again. I used my story to speak out and empower other women. I found out about the associate-led Organization United for at Respect (OUR) Walmart and fought to have my leave approved. Working with OUR Walmart, my request was eventually granted and all disciplinary actions against me were dropped. Building on that momentum, I became involved with the “Respect the Bump” campaign to ensure that all pregnant women at Walmart are able to get light duty when they need it.

The White House Summit on Working Families needs to hear our voices. Millions of workers, especially working women, have stories similar to mine. They are trapped in a cycle of low wage jobs with unpredictable hours that make it difficult to raise a family. My hope is this event will help elevate the ongoing national conversation about making today’s workplaces better for everyone, including working mothers like me.

I believe the work I am doing through OUR Walmart will bring about needed change at my company. Obviously, more can be done to better the lives and circumstances of working women and their families. The White House Summit on Working Families is the perfect place to highlight and advance this effort.

Bene’t is traveling to Washington, D.C., to attend the White House Summit on Working Families. The Summit will be held on June 23 and is hosted by the Center for American Progress, partnered with the White House, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

image credit: religionandrace.org

image credit: religionandrace.org

Dr. Iva Carruthers, general secretary of Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference and a member of the Retail Justice Alliance, spoke at Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting last week in support of the Walmart moms who protested the company’s continuing retaliation against workers who speak out for positive change:

 

New Demos Report Shows that Raising Wages, Improving Schedules for Women in the Retail Sector Can Benefit the Economy

for RJAA new report by Demos challenges our country’s major retailers to boost the economy by creating jobs with decent wages and schedules for the many women and their families in the industry.  The report, titled “Retail’s Choice: How Raising Wages and Improving Schedules for Women in the Retail Industry Would Benefit America,” points out that American women disproportionately hold the retail industry’s lowest paid positions and many women in the retail sector and their families are struggling in poverty due to low wages, erratic schedules and lack of basic benefits like paid sick days.

This new report builds on a previous Demos study about how retailers can benefit from raising employee wages.  The report, titled “Retail’s Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Overall Economy,” shows that raising wages to $25,000 per year for full-time retail workers at the nation’s largest retail companies (or 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.

At Walmart’s Annual Shareholders Meeting, Shareholders Vote for Change of Course and New Leadership

Reposted from Making Change at Walmart

10371499_578970018887532_7875990036966403250_nInvestor Unrest Grows with Falling Sales, Continuing Out-of-Stock Issues, Escalating Legal Problems. New Poll Confirms Poor Worker Treatment Hurting Company’s Sales

Fayetteville, AR –Sending a message to the Walmart heirs who control the company, a growing number of institutional investors, independent shareholders, analysts and advisors are raising concerns – and proposing changes – at Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting Friday. The actions come as Walmart reports falling sales for five consecutive quarters and the company reports losing up to $3 billion a year because of stocking problems. Additionally, the increase in consumer concerns around the treatment of Walmart workers and legal problems related to potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and federal labor laws have been factors motivating investors to vote for changes in leadership, governance and compliance.

new poll of consumers, released by Lake Research Partners Friday, confirms that concerns about Walmart’s pay and treatment of workers are influencing shopping habits. According to the survey, 25% of Walmart’s most loyal customers are shopping there less because of the company’s treatment of workers. In addition, among the 27% of consumers who rarely or never shop at Walmart, 36% say it’s because of “poor treatment of workers,” and 26% say it’s because Walmart “pays workers too little.”

“Walmart’s reputation as a low-paying employer is becoming a growing problem for the company’s bottom-line,” Lake Research concludes. “The good news for Walmart is that over a quarter of consumers confirm that if Walmart’s treatment of workers improved, their likelihood of shopping at the retailer would increase.”

OUR Walmart, the three-year old organization of Walmart associates, has been raising concerns about the company’s illegal retaliation, low pay and erratic scheduling. The group is calling on CEO Doug McMillon to publicly commit to paying workers a minimum of $25,000 a year, putting an end to part-time and temporary work and ending the retaliation against workers who speak out. The group says the Walton heirs – America’s richest family – have led the company to a low point, defined by the hardship they are creating for working families, the inexcusable lack of oversight of its supply chain and alleged bribery and subsequent cover-up.

Speaking from the floor of the shareholders meeting on proposal #4, which calls for an independent chairman of the board, Walmart associate, shareholder and OUR Walmart member Charmaine Givens-Thomas pointed out the connections between staffing problems and customer service concerns:

“We do not have enough trained associates in our stores to keep our shelves stocked. Backrooms are piling up because there aren’t enough people to get things on the floor. So we struggle to deliver the customer service we pride ourselves on. And without excellent service, sales suffer. Our company must invest more in associates and give them the respect they deserve, so we can be even more productive, which benefits us as associates and shareholders. We need a leader at the top who thinks only of what is best for our company, its associates and all shareholders.”

Dr. Iva Carruthers, with the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes and Zevin Asset Management, will speak on proposal #6, which asks Walmart to provide a report on its lobbying expenditures. She plans to address the room questioning the company’s possible lobbying efforts around food stamp cuts and the minimum wage:

“As shareholders, customers, and citizens, we are concerned that Walmart may be putting money behind policies that harm our company’s image, threaten its bottom-line, and compromise the value of our shares. For example, some of Walmart’s sales come from food stamps used by both Walmart associates and customers. We need to know if our company’s lobbying efforts supported food stamp cuts that led to lower sales.

Walmart moms, some of whom have been on strike for a week, shared their concerns on the 10 top things to understand about the company’s health outside the shareholders meeting.

“The call for change at Walmart is the loudest it has ever been,” said Moronica Owens, a Walmart mom paid less than $25,000 a year – like the majority of Walmart workers. To make sure her son has enough to eat, Moronica skips meals herself. “We feel like change is really possible – and it couldn’t be more urgent. Our resolve to improve jobs at Walmart is strengthened by such a diverse group of shoppers, investors, and associates joining us in the calls for change at Walmart.”

A new report from the independent public policy organization Demos argues that Walmart could use the $6.6 billion it spent on repurchasing stock in 2013 to instead invest in its 825,000 workers making less that $25,000 per year, putting an extra $5.13 an hour in their pockets.

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LEGAL DISCLAIMER: 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.

Leading Up to Walmart’s Shareholders Meeting, Walmart Moms Walk Off the Job to Protest Illegal Firings

10262223_807954262550554_264642305315404525_nThis week, Walmart moms are walking off the job in more than 20 cities to protest the company’s retaliation against workers who speak out for positive change. On Friday, OUR Walmart members will take their concerns and calls for change directly to the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Ark.

Striking Walmart moms, along with fellow workers, families, and community supporters nationwide, are calling on new Walmart CEO Doug McMillon to take the company in a new direction—one that will respect workers’ rights and help strengthen families and the economy. Walmart is the largest employer of women in the country, and Walmart workers help the company make $16 billion in profits a year and contribute to the growing wealth of the Walton family—heirs to the Walmart empire.

Walmart workers have made significant strides in changing policies of the country’s largest employer, particularly in its treatment of women. Recently, Walmart improved its treatment of pregnant workers after OUR Walmart members, who are also shareholders, submitted a resolution to the company about its pregnancy policy. Walmart also rolled out a new system nationwide that allows workers to sign up for open shifts in their stores online in response to OUR Walmart members’ growing calls on the retailer to improve access to hours.

“We know that change is possible at Walmart. That’s why I’m joining other moms at Walmart and going on strike. We have the right to speak out for better futures, and when we do it together—we make progress,” said Lashanda Myrick who is a mother of two and works at Walmart’s Denver store No. 2752.

For more information and to support the Walmart moms, visit http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/.