A sign posted near several plastic containers at a Wal-Mart in Ohio says it all:
“Please donate food items so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.”
News of the in-store food donation efforts sent shockwaves across the country, once again shining a light on Wal-Mart’s hypocrisy: How can a company that raked in $15.7 billion in profits last year alone keep its workforce in poverty wages, relying on each other to literally put food on the table?
Wal-Mart’s exploitation of its workers is finally getting the attention it deserves. Massive strikes and demonstrations have been planned for Black Friday to bring attention to the company’s policies. And the National Labor Relations Board recently announced it will prosecute Wal-Mart for violating workers’ rights by threatening, disciplining and firing employees who went on strike or attempted to unionize. As an industry leader, Wal-Mart sets the pace for its competitors. Forcing them to change their unjust policies will impact workers everywhere.
On Black Friday—while their workers toil long hours for meager wages, under the constant threat of retaliation for demanding something better for themselves and their families—Wal-Mart will be lining its pockets once again. And ColorOfChange.org asks you, the reader, to join a chorus of voices demanding that Wal-Mart treat its workers with dignity and respect, and stop exploiting our financial troubles for their own gain.
The economic downturn has forced millions of Americans into low-wage retail jobs like those at Wal-Mart. Today, the company employs nearly 1.4 million workers, and is the largest private-sector employer of African Americans in the United States. Wal-Mart’s massive share of the American workforce makes the company’s deplorable treatment of workers all the more infuriating. Low wages, unfair scheduling, wage theft and worker retaliation are all hallmarks of a Wal-Mart associate’s working life with the corporation. Wal-Mart would rather launch food drives for associates to feed each other than simply pay them a living wage.
Though recent strikes in Dallas, Chicago, Miami and Southern California made headlines, Wal-Mart seems used to the outrage surrounding its policies. Confronted about recent protests outside of one of their Los Angeles locations, a spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that “Wal-Mart has seen such protests ‘over and over’ again”—a breathtakingly arrogant response from a company that also boasts the largest number of employees on government assistance.
Wal-Mart has a history of retaliation against workers who stand up and demand better conditions. But intimidation tactics haven’t stopped brave workers like Colby Harris from speaking out. A former Wal-Mart employee and OUR Walmart organizer, Harris is just one of hundreds of Wal-Mart associates who reported retaliatory harassment from the company. Earlier this year he told the Nation, “They said that anybody who associates themselves with OUR Walmart, and the leaders, and the organization as a whole, could face disciplinary actions.”
He has since been fired from Wal-Mart.