Last month, Making Change at Walmart aired ads during the first Democratic presidential debate with the purpose of bringing the struggles of Walmart workers and retail workers into America’s living rooms. The ads reached over 30 million people, got covered by national media outlets, and the #OurWalmartVoices hashtag was used by thousands on Twitter and Facebook.
In order to keep the issues facing America’s retail workers a centerpiece of the 2016 presidential campaign, the ads aired again during the second Democratic debate and Making Change at Walmart announced an “Are You With Us?” initiative that calls on all presidential candidates to tweet their support for Walmart and retail workers. The ads again were the most talked about of the debate and #OurWalmartVoices was a trending topic during the debate. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted the ad, saying that Walmart “has gotta start paying living wages to their workers, not starvation wages.”
Last week, the Making Change at Walmart (MCAW) campaign released the following statement responding to news that the company announced it was predicting a drop in annual profit – an announcement that led to shares of Walmart dropping to their lowest point in three years.
“Walmart should be ashamed for trying to blame its failures on the so-called wage increases. The truth is that many hard-working Walmart employees all across the country began seeing their hours cut soon after the new wages were announced. The idea that this truly drove down Walmart’s profits is a fairytale,” said Jess Levin, communications director for MCAW. “The reality is that customers want a Walmart to reflect their values, and until that changes the company will continue to struggle. It is time for Walmart and other retailers to wake up and hear the change the American people and their customers want.”
MCAW released two ads earlier last week that highlighted the struggles that many Walmart and retail workers face every day. Those ads, “Replaceable” and “Real Change,”debuted during the Democratic debate Tuesday night and continued to run nationally throughout the week.
In a direct effort to reach all the 2016 presidential candidates, the hard-hitting ad campaign will feature the difficult and troubling experiences of a diverse group of current and former Walmart workers. From poor wages and benefits, to decreasing hours and difficult scheduling, the ad campaign highlights the emotional impact that many workers, and their families, face at Walmart and all across the retail industry.
The first phase of the #OurWalmartVoices ad campaign will feature two 30-second commercials. The first, called “Replaceable,” will highlight the experiences of hard-working retail workers at Walmart. The second, called “Real Change,” specifically calls on the Democratic presidential candidates, as well as the Republican candidates, to stand with them, their families, and workers who are just like them in their effort to change retailers like Walmart for the better. Both ads can be viewed at theHelpChangeWalmart.com, as well as at UFCW.org.
The ad campaign will first air nationally during the CNN debate and then continue a national run the following two days on CNN. Online, the ad will appear on Facebook and Twitter. In total, the ad will be seen more than 34 million times.
The #OurWalmartVoices ad campaign is part of a larger grassroots effort that will also include targeted social media and on-the-ground actions across multiple states, designed to reach Walmart and retail workers all across the country. The goal of the campaign is to ensure that all candidates, Republican or Democrat, take notice of the struggles of retail workers, and to also highlight these real issues as part of the 2016 race for the White House.
Making Change at Walmart (MCAW) presented at UNI’s Walmart Global Union Alliance meeting in Bogota, Columbia, to an audience of people working on Walmart and labor issues in Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa.
MCAW’s presentation discussed the campaign’s biggest victories from the previous year and future plans for the rest of the year and 2016, including plans for more coordinated media and ground campaigns. MCAW additionally discussed ways for the alliance to coordinate and promote the campaign work in their countries.
The alliance aims to further develop global and local labor relations with Walmart in order to find mutually beneficial solutions to promote the interests and well-being of Walmart’s workforce along with the success of the company.
Yesterday, former Walmart workers, with the help of the UFCW, Making Change at Walmart, and OUR Walmart, announced at a press conference that they had filed a second charge against Walmart with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding the retaliatory closing of the Pico Rivera, Calif., Walmart store. In the charge, workers allege that they were discriminated against in the transfer process due to their participation in protests for better wages, hours and working conditions.
“When Walmart closed our store, I knew it was because we had been leading the nationwide movement for $15 an hour and access to full-time, consistent hours,” said Jenny Mills, a nine-year Walmart worker who was listed on the charge. “Seeing who they did and did not transfer just reaffirmed that. Walmart intentionally refused to transfer those of us who have been the most vocal in standing up for fair wages and hours. That’s simply not just a coincidence.”
The workers were joined at the conference by community leaders, clergy and city residents calling for the reinstatement of all 530 laid off Pico Rivera Walmart workers. Despite the fact that there are 45 Walmart stores within 20 miles of the closed Pico Rivera store, Walmart has failed to transfer the most vocal workers in the fight for $15 an hour and access to consistent, full-time hours since the closure back in April.
“The Walmart store in Pico Rivera has been a valuable contributor to our local economy. However, as a massively profitable company like Walmart knows, for a vibrant economy to grow, people need a steady paycheck,” said Pico Rivera Mayor Gregory Salcido. “That’s why I’m urging Walmart to reinstate the 530 employees it laid off as soon as the store reopens. These families are an important part of our community and our economy. I’m hopeful that by working together, we can help our businesses and our families thrive.”
“Punishing workers by denying them a livelihood in this fashion isn’t only legally wrong; it’s morally wrong,” said Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. “Brave workers entitled to a better life for their families now face spirit- and body-crushing stress because of Walmart’s unconscionable choice. We cannot let such injustices prevail. We must hear the voices of those fighting for what is right.”
On August 24, Walmart workers and supports protested outside of the Walmart store in Oakland, Calif., where Walmart CEO Doug McMillon was expected to be making a store visit. While McMillon never showed up, the protestors called on him to stop retaliation against workers who speak out about low wages and unfair working conditions at Walmart. The workers involved in the protest included some from the Pico Rivera store – one of five stores that Walmart abruptly closed last April for alleged “plumbing problems,” laying off more than 2,000 workers with just hours’ notice.
Denise Barlage, who worked at the now closed Pico Rivera, Calif., store said, “We need reinstatement of all Pico workers. I told the manager, I’m sure you’re a nice guy, but you should never feel that you can’t be downsized as well.”
Margaret Hooten who works at the Placerville, Calif., Walmart store said, “I support unjustly fired people. I’m not going away.”
The Pico Rivera, Calif., store that Walmart closed was one of the most vocal in the fight for $15/hr and respect on the job. It was the first store to ever go on strike back in 2012. More recently, workers from that store held sit-down strikes and even participated in civil disobedience.
Earlier this year, Walmart released a commercialhighlighting Walmart’s commitment to invest “over $1 billion this year in higher wages, education, and training.”
The National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau (NAD) had questions about whether that commercial unfairly implies that Walmart is raising workers’ wages enough so that they can support themselves and their families. The NAD wanted to conduct a review of the claims, but Walmart declined to participate so now the NAD is asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to step in.
When Walmart announced it would raise entry level wages to $9 an hour this year and that all associates would earn at least $10 an hour next year, it was a step in the right direction. But it is not accurate to suggest that this increase makes it possible for workers to support their families, especially since so many workers struggle to get full-time, consistent hours.
With $16 billion in profits and $150 billion in wealth for the owners, Walmart can afford to do more. And until they do, the FTC should not allow Walmart to make these claims in its commercials.
Click here to share the petition and sign your name and tell the FTC to investigate Walmart’s “Raise in Pay” commercial today.
Americans for Tax Fairness released a new report yesterday that sheds light on Walmart’s placement of at least $76 billion in assets into an elaborate, undisclosed web of 78 subsidiaries and branches in 15 offshore tax havens, which may be used to minimize foreign taxes where it has retail operations and avoid U.S. taxes on those foreign earnings.
The report, titled The Walmart Web: How the World’s Biggest Corporation Secretly Uses Tax Havens to Dodge Taxes, shows that the retail giant has made tax havens central to its growing International division, which now accounts for one-third of the company’s profits. Walmart’s network of 78 undisclosed overseas subsidiaries in tax havens have no retail operations and few, if any, employees. Twenty-two of these paper companies are in Luxembourg alone, a country that plays a central role in the company’s tax haven network.
The retail giant has avoided scrutiny of its international tax dodging in the past by declining to disclose its tax haven subsidiaries on Exhibit 21 (“Subsidiaries”) of the company’s annual 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Companies use tax havens to dodge taxes. It appears that’s the secret game Walmart is playing,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. “We are calling on Congress, federal agencies and international organizations to determine if Walmart is skirting the law when it comes to reporting its use of tax havens, using various schemes to dodge taxes, and getting a sweetheart deal from Luxembourg that is the equivalent of illegal state aid. Average Americans and small businesses have to make up the difference when Walmart doesn’t pay its fair share of taxes.”
Last week, following two weeks of events in cities across the country, Walmart workers held a series of public actions at Walmart’s HQ, as well as at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. During the events, Walmart workers called on the company to make immediate changes across an array of issues, including increasing hourly wages and ending workplace intimidation.
“The time has come for Walmart to take real actions to help improve the lives of Walmart workers and their families. It is simply wrong for Walmart to ignore our calls for change and look the other way as hundreds of thousands of hard-working associates continue to struggle to make ends meet. Walmart must change, and it must change now,” said Cindy Murray, a current Walmart associate.
As part of the actions at the shareholder meeting, Walmart workers called on the company to help lift hundreds of thousands of their dedicated employees out of poverty by paying a living wage, as well as providing stable full-time hours for all associates.
Two leaders of the workers group also presented two resolutions intended to rein in executive compensation and incentivize sustainable investment, such as fair wages and benefits for all workers across Walmart. The resolutions, including a proposal supported by the Sierra Club, also called on Walmart to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by international marine shipping.
“Despite some recent efforts on the company’s part to reduce its carbon footprint, Walmart is still one of the largest and fastest-growing polluters in the country,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “If Walmart is really serious about driving climate solutions, they should put their money where their mouth is, by setting goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international marine shipping, reporting progress toward those goals to their shareholders, and setting a deadline for 2020 to meet their commitment for 100% clean energy in the U.S.”
During the shareholder’s meeting, the Walmart workers proposed a new policy establishing an independent chairperson for Walmart’s Board of Directors, and called on company leaders to immediately address the recent closure of stores and the laying off of more than 2,200 Walmart workers around the country.
“Mr. Rob Walton, the current non-independent chair of the board, is the most powerful person at our company. The buck stops with him. He could stop these layoffs. He could stop the retaliation. He could stop this company from repeatedly breaking the law. But he has not. That’s why we need an independent chair. ”said Venanzi Luna, a former Walmart employee, who has worked for Walmart in Pico Rivera, Calif., for eight years.
Ms. Luna worked at the first Walmart store to strike in 2012 and one of five stores the company abruptly closed in April, citing “plumbing issues.” More than 2,000 workers were laid off following these sudden closures.
“Our fight to change Walmart will never stop until Walmart does the right thing for all its workers and their families. We’re going to continue to speak out until every hard-working associate is paid a real living wage, full time work that allows them to support their families, and is allowed to stand with their co-workers without fear of retaliation.” said Mary Watkines, a 15-year Walmart associate and shareholder.