There is no company more responsible for creating and exacerbating income inequality through its low-wage, part-time business practices than Walmart — our country’s largest private employer. That’s why we should all be thankful that, during this holiday season, Walmart workers across the country are again leading the fight to change the way Walmart does business.
This Black Friday, these brave Walmart workers, who will go on strike, lead protests, and even engage in civil disobedience, deserve our thanks. They deserve our thanks because they are standing up to protect the value of work, a cornerstone of our society. They deserve our gratitude because they are speaking up against bullying and retaliation in the workplace when they simply exercise their right to speak out for a better life.
Current and former Walmart workers who are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) are calling on the retail giant to publicly commit to pay its workers $15 per hour, provide workers with access to consistent, full-time hours, and end illegal retaliation against workers who speak out for better jobs. At the company’s own admission, the majority of Walmart’s 1.4 million workers are paid less than $25,000 a year. That means that too many Walmart workers are struggling to cover the basic necessities like food and shelter and are forced to rely on taxpayer-funded programs like food stamps to survive. As a result, whether you shop at Walmart or not, you are subsidizing the country’s largest private employer.
Walmart can afford to pay its workers more. The company makes between $16 and $17 billion a year in profits, and just six members of the Walton Family, heirs to the Walmart empire and the richest family in America, have a combined family fortune that is estimated to be over $150 billion. Their net worth is greater than the wealth held by 43 percent of American families combined!
For far too long, Walmart, as the dominant player of the retail sector, has set a trend that unfortunately perpetuates a race to the bottom that hurts workers, suppliers and communities across this country and the world. Just last week, Walmart workers in 10 countries, including Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and India, took to the streets to protest the company’s part-time and low-wage business model. And this Black Friday, you can support Walmart workers at a store near you — just visit blackfridayprotests.org.
Walmart has an opportunity to lead by example and change its business practices so that all Walmart workers have access to consistent, full-time hours and decent wages. Walmart can afford it and should find its moral compass and do right by its workers. Until that happens, we will continue to stand with Walmart workers in their fight for better wages and hours and respect on the job. Walmart workers deserve better and our country deserves better from its largest private employer.
Tom Wilkinson is President of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 371 and Mark Espinosa is President of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 919.
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