Yesterday, ahead of the Walmart’s June 5 shareholder meeting, Walmart workers and community allies in Los Angeles called for CEO Doug McMillon and the Walton family to end the retaliation against workers who speak out for change, and to publicly commit to pay a living wage of $15 per hour and provide access to full-time hours. Two dozen Walmart workers also began a 24-hour fast to highlight the hunger many Walmart associates and their families endure due to the company’s low wages and insufficient hours.
“I’m standing with Walmart workers because no one in our community should have to choose between paying rent and buying food—and especially not someone who works for the richest company in the world,” said Pastor Bridie C. Roberts, program director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. “It is unconscionable for Walmart to punish their workers for standing together to improve their livelihoods.”
Earlier this year, Walmart caved to worker pressure and announced it would raise wages for 500,000 U.S. associates. But despite the modest increase—and without any guarantee of adequate hours —many workers are still forced to rely on government assistance programs like food stamps to get by. Meanwhile, the company escalated its retaliatory actions against associates to a new level last month when it abruptly closed five stores and laid off more than 2,000 workers, citing “plumbing issues.” Walmart has failed to offer any conclusive evidence of a plumbing emergency that would require the immediate closing of five stores. Workers at the Walmart store in Pico Rivera, Calif., one of the stores closed for alleged plumbing issues, are calling on the company to publicly commit to reinstating all laid off workers when the store reopens for business and to allow all workers, for the time being, to be transferred to one of the nearby 45 Walmart stores.
“It’s no coincidence that many OUR Walmart members from my store, including myself, have not been transferred to other Walmart stores even though we made the request shortly after the company unilaterally decided to close our store with just a few hours’ notice,” said Venanzi Luna, a Walmart worker from Pico Rivera.
Walmart workers are prepared to demand change and accountability from the world’s largest retailer at the company’s upcoming shareholder meeting. Worker shareholders will present two resolutions intended to rein in executive compensation and incentivize sustainable investment, such as fair wages and benefits for workers.
Teresa Adams, one of the Pico Rivera store workers the company laid off, plans to join her coworkers at the shareholder meeting. “Walmart’s business model only works for the people at the very top, and that’s not right,” Adams said. “We’re fighting for $15 and full-time because that’s what we need to support our families.”