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The Walton family’s role in school re-segregation

Reposted from The Walmart 1%

UFCW BENTONVILLE WALMART 101211Under the guise of “reforming” K-12 education, the Walton family, which owns a majority of Walmart and has raked in unfathomable wealth off the backs of low-wage Walmart workers, has poured over $1 billion into efforts to undermine public schools and promote a corporate-friendly, privatized model of education.

The Walton family’s work in education is both misguided and profoundly anti-democratic. Yet, asArkansas Times columnist Max Brantley wrote in a blog post discussing an Atlantic report on the re-segregation of Southern public schools, there is a less-examined but equally serious consequence of the family’s interference with schools: The Waltons’ chosen approaches to school reform, namely school choice and charter schools, are contributing to the re-segregation of public schools and the potential resurgence of highly segregated “apartheid schools.”

For example, In Little Rock, the capital of the Waltons’ home state of Arkansas, Brantley notes that a new Walton-funded charter school is expected to attract wealthier students away from the local public schools, leaving behind poorer students. The family also backed state legislation that bars school districts from considering race in its decisions about student school transfers. (For over twenty years, in order to preserve the integrity of school desegregation efforts, districts were permitted to consider race in transfer decisions.)

Scores of academic studies from a variety of states and countries demonstrate that the Waltons’ approach to education is probably worsening segregation not just in Arkansas, but everywhere they are funding “education reform.” As Iris Rotberg, a George Washington University education policy professor, wrote for the Phi Delta Kappan, school choice programs and the expansion of charter schools drive increases in school segregation by race, ethnicity, income, and other characteristics.

In spite of this evidence, the Walton family—itself an emblem of income inequality—remains a staunch advocate of school choice and is believed to be the country’s largest funder of charter schools. Walton-funded “reform” organizations often make the audacious, arrogant claim that they are leaders in the “new civil rights movement.” Actually, their efforts risk setting civil rights back by decades.

Ending child poverty has been shown to improve children’s academic performance. Walmart, which the Walton family controls roughly half of, continues to keep many of its associates in poverty, with low wages, poor benefits and unpredictable schedules that make parenting even more difficult. If the Waltons really want to make meaningful, substantive improvements in children’s education, they could help combat child poverty by ensuring living wages for the 1.3 million Walmart workers in the United States.

New Report Shows How Walmart’s Walton Family Receives $7.8 Billion in Tax Breaks and Taxpayer Subsidies

WM_TaxesA report released this week by Americans for Tax Fairness titled Walmart on Tax Day: How Taxpayers Subsidize America’s Biggest Employer and Richest Family shows how Walmart and the Walton family receive tax breaks and taxpayer subsidies estimated at more than $7.8 billion a year, while many of its workers are forced to rely on taxpayer-funded programs like food stamps and Medicaid.

The breakdown provided in the report shows where the estimated $7.8 billion in subsidies and tax breaks occurred:

• Walmart receives an estimated $6.2 billion annually in mostly federal taxpayer subsidies. Walmart pays its employees so little that many of them rely on food stamps, healthcare and other taxpayer-funded programs.

• Walmart avoids an estimated $1 billion in federal taxes each year. It uses tax breaks, loopholes, and a strategy known as accelerated depreciation that allows it to write off capital investments considerably faster than the assets actually wear out.

• The Waltons avoided an estimated $607 million in federal taxes on their Walmart dividends which are taxed at a much lower rate than income from salaries and wages. The report also estimated that $7.8 billion is enough to hire 105,000 new public school teachers.

In reaction to the news that the country’s largest retailer and richest family received an estimated $7.8 billion in tax breaks and subsidies in 2013, Walmart workers and taxpayers in Phoenix delivered a $7.8 billion tax bill to Walmart Chairman Rob Walton’s home in Paradise Valley, outside Phoenix.

“Like most Americans, I work hard, pay my taxes and play by the rules. Why can’t America’s richest family pay their fair share of taxes like the rest of us?” said Venanzi Luna, a Walmart worker who undersigned the bill.

 

OUR Walmart Members Win Huge Victories on Scheduling and for Pregnant Workers

wm momsAfter years of relentless campaigning and advocacy by members of OUR Walmart, along with their allies in the UFCW and labor, faith, and progressive communities, Walmart has announced two major policy shifts. One will allow workers to get more hours when they want them, and another will ensure that pregnant women are given some basic accommodations that will help them keep their jobs and provide for their families.

Since the group’s inception, OUR Walmart members have spoken out about the need for access to full-time work, and the struggles of being scheduled for fewer hours than they need to get by. At the same time, as a result of chronic understaffing in stores, there have been reports of empty shelves and lower customer satisfaction. Most recently, OUR Walmart sent delegations to dozens of store managers across the country, and members launched a national petition calling for access to full-time work. In Laurel, Md., OUR Walmart members stood together and got their manager to post open shifts in order to give more access to hours to part-time employees.

Walmart workers from across the country kept the pressure on for more shift access in stores. They went on strike to protest Walmart’s attempts to silence them when they spoke up about inconsistent scheduling, insufficient hours, and low wages. Shortly after their Black Friday actions, Walmart announced it would increase transparency in scheduling, but few stores saw these promised changes take effect.

With the support and the signatures of thousands of Walmart workers and community members, Walmart workers held delegations at stores around the country last month. Walmart responded by posting important changes to its scheduling policy that will allow workers to get more access to the hours they need to support their families.

Walmart also recently altered its policy to accommodate pregnant employees. Under pressure from mothers working in their stores and women’s groups with the “Respect the Bump” campaign, the retail giant reworked its policy so that women with pregnancy-related complications can be considered temporarily disabled and eligible for reasonable accommodations. While this policy doesn’t go far enough to provide reasonable accommodations regarding physical demands for all pregnant women, it’s a step forward in protecting the jobs and health of the most vulnerable pregnant women and their babies.

For decades, Walmart has been lowering the standards for retail workers. These two victories are an important step toward improving jobs at Walmart and ending the erosion of retail jobs across the industry. The victory shows that by standing together, workers can make changes even at the largest private employer in the world.

To read stories about the workers’ victory, please visit the Making Change at Walmart Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/MakingChangeWMT.

 

OUR Walmart Members Join the “Give America a Raise” Bus Tour in Illinois

Reposted from Making Change at Walmart

Americans United for Change - OUR Walmart membersLast week, on March 31, members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) joined U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, local elected officials, labor and faith leaders, and other low-wage workers in Chicago as part of the “Give America A Raise” bus tour.  The bus tour, launched by Americans United for Change, is an 11-state tour to urge Republicans in Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Rose Campbell, a Walmart employee and OUR Walmart leader, spoke at a rally in Chicago about Walmart worker’s struggle to make ends meet while earning a Walmart poverty wage.

“Americans agree that no one who works should live in poverty, yet the reality is that workers around the country earning minimum wage are living below the poverty line,” said Rose Campbell. “It’s long past time for Congress to give America a raise.”

Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has remained the same but the price of price of food, gas, utilities, and basic necessities have dramatically increase due to economic inflation, making it nearly impossible to get by anywhere in America on $7.25 an hour or $15,000 a year.

A recent Public Policy Polling survey found that 63% of Illinois voters support raising the minimum wage to $10 – while only 33% are opposed – and by 11 point spread that they’re less likely to vote for Senator Mark Kirk again if he opposes it.

“The Tea Party-approved voting records of Senator Kirk and Illinois’ Republican Congressmen show that they’re more interested in voting for minimum tax responsibility for millionaires and huge corporations that outsource jobs than helping hard working Illinois workers climb out of poverty and one rung closer to the middle class, said Brad Woodhouse, President of Americans United for Change. “Their priority should be providing a needed boost not just for the millions of struggling low-wage American workers that can barely survive on $7.25, but for the U.S. economy as a whole.”

A new report out from Center for American Progress Action Fund finds that raising the minimum wage would increase wages for 1,127,000 workers in Illinois by more than $1.3 billion if the minimum wage is raised to $10.10, and it would generate more than $860 million of economic activity in the state.

The bus tour’s Illinois stops included Chicago, Belvidere, and Springfield.

Walmart CEO Acknowledges Lack of Opportunities for Workers

A recent AP article by Josh Boak finds that Walmart—our country’s largest employer—does not provide its employees with enough opportunities for professional advancement or a pathway to a middle class life.  As a result of the Great Recession, many older and more educated workers are turning to the retail giant as a way to support their families.  And despite the retail giant’s self-promotion as a source for professional opportunity, Bill Simon, CEO of Walmart U.S., suggests that workers look elsewhere if they want to make more money and have access to better benefits. “Some people took those jobs because they were the only ones available and haven’t been able to figure out how to move out of that,” Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart U.S., acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press. If Wal-Mart employees “can go to another company and another job and make more money and develop, they’ll be better,” Simon explained. “It’ll be better for the economy. It’ll be better for us as a business, to be quite honest, because they’ll continue to advance in their economic life.” Walmart’s sheer scale in size means that its low-wage, part-time business practices have an enormous impact on our country’s labor, business, and employment climate, and the company’s profits before people business strategy has influenced other retailers to do the same.  That’s why Walmart workers across the country are taking the lead in the fight to change the way the retail giant does business. Since its inception, former and current Walmart workers who are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) have called on the retailer 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. Too many Walmart workers like Joanna Lopez are struggling to survive on low wages with insufficient hours and are relying on taxpayer funded programs like food stamps to make ends meet. Simon’s suggestion that many Wal-Mart employees might be better off leaving for other jobs surprised Wal-Mart cashier Joanna Lopez. A 26-year-old single mother, she owns no car and lives with her church pastor near Fremont, Calif. She collects food stamps and receives insurance through California’s version of Medicaid. Lopez started at Wal-Mart as a temp in August 2011, after being unable to land a hospital job with her associate’s degree. Her pay has risen from $8 an hour to $9.20, after she moved from part time to full time. The suggestion by a Wal-Mart executive that some employees might be staying too long offended her. “To me, that’s an utter humiliation,” Lopez said. “How can you sit there and have management say that we should find other jobs because this place is ‘no bueno?’” As the largest retail employer in the country, 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. If Walmart would listen to—and respect—its workers, it could help to rebuild our country’s economy and strengthen America’s middle class.

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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.

 

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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.

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,

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