Community Members, former Walmart and Warehouse Workers Arrested in Peaceful Civil Disobedience in Ontario
Nation Rallies Behind Walmart Workers; 1,500 Black Friday Rallies Mark One of Largest Mobilizations of Working Families in History
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, November 29
Contact: Elizabeth Brennan, Warehouse Workers United, 213-999-2164
LOS ANGELES –Early this morning in front of the Ontario Walmart more than 150 supporters and Walmart workers rallied and 10 protesters, including Santa Claus, were arrested in an act of civil disobedience. The protesters joined 1,500 protests across the nation in one of the largest mobilizations of working families in American history.
Hundreds more gathered in the pouring rain for a second large protest in front of the Walmart in Los Angeles’ Crenshaw District for a large rally.
Workers in LA and beyond are joined by tens of thousands of Americans calling on Walmart to end illegal retaliation and publicly commit to improving labor standards, including providing workers with more full-time work and $25,000 a year.
Emboldened by news from Walmart CEO that hundreds of thousands of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year, Walmart workers are receiving an outpouring of national support. Responding to revelations last week that several Walmart stores hold food drives for their own employees, customers, community groups and clergy are citing Walmart’s immoral business model as they join workers at nationwide protests. The country’s largest retailer and employer, Walmart makes more than $17 billion in profit, with the wealth of the Walton family totaling over $144.7 billion – equal to that of 42% of Americans.
“Walmart is our nation’s largest employer and most profitable retailer. But when the workers doing all of their heavy lifting are not paid enough to afford basic needs, it is clear Walmart is morally bankrupt, said California State Senator Norma Torres of Pomona.
In a sign of growing nationwide momentum, major protests are taking place today in every corner of the country, in more than a dozen metropolitan cities, including South Los Angeles and Ontario as well as Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Sacramento, Miami, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.
In an act of civil disobedience, workers and community members plan to sit down in the middle of the street in front of the Ontario Walmart in San Bernardino County, citing Walmart’s indefensible treatment of their employees and workers in its supply chain. The Inland Empire, which includes San Bernardino and Riverside counties, is the largest hub of warehouses in the world – many process Walmart merchandise. Individuals participating in the civil disobedience said they were willing to get arrested on behalf of countless Walmart workers who refuse to live in fear and refuse to accept scraps.
“Walmart’s treatment of workers is nothing short of exploitation,” said Javier Rodriguez, a warehouse worker who moved Walmart merchandise at a major facility contracted by Walmart until he was fired after speaking up about safety concerns. “I am going to sit down in the street in front of Walmart because Walmart has lost its way. It doesn’t matter – Walmart workers, temporary workers in its contracted warehouses, none of us can feed our families and pay our rents on poverty wages. It’s not right. Walmart must change.”
Online, customers and community members are increasingly joining the fight for $25,000 and an end to illegal retaliation. A worker-initiated online petition asking President Obama to meet with Walmart workers currently has more than 100,000 signers. And a new online portal, www.associatevoices.com, has been instrumental spreading nationwide protests, as associates have stepped forward and requested Black Friday protests at their stores.
Speaking about Walmart’s storied founder Sam Walton, Martha Sellers, a Walmart associate from Paramount, Calif. said:
“Sam Walton has a quote where he says, ‘I hope my descendants never become part of the idle rich,'” Sellers said. “Well that’s exactly what they’ve done. This is his legacy that they are destroying and they just continue to ignore us. They would rather race their cars and build their art galleries than take care of their associates.”
In the lead up to Black Friday, workers and supporters have escalated their calls for change. In Los Angeles, workers went on a two-day strike to call on Walmart to stop retaliating against and attempting to silence workers who speak out for better working conditions, culminating in the largest-ever act of civil disobedience against Walmart; in Seattle, Chicago, Ohio, Dallas, Florida and Washington, D.C., workers joined them in walking off their jobs.
Last week, a photo from a Canton, Ohio store went viral, as workers, customers and commentators pointed to a food drive set up for Walmart’s own employees as proof that the retailer pays its workers poverty wages. And a federal labor board recently announced it would prosecute Walmart for widespread violations of its workers’ rights, providing additional protection for Walmart’s 1.3 million employees when they are speaking out for better jobs.
On Monday, Walmart announced Doug McMillon would replace Mike Duke as CEO, with countless media outlets underscoring the growing list of problems McMillion would soon face as CEO – sluggish sales, global investigations into allegations of bribery, environmental destruction and growing worker protests over poor pay and illegal retaliation.
“We see the ‘Walmart effect’ on all workers in Walmart’s supply chain,” said Guadalupe Palma. “Workers in its stores and in its warehouses are responding to the same situation – wages that don’t pay their bills, part-time hours that require most to get a second job just to survive, and intimidation when they do stand up for their rights.”
Growing voices in business and the media have chided Walmart for its unsustainable business model. A Bloomberg columnist recently called the company the true “welfare queen,” noting that Walmart is the largest consumer of taxpayer-supported aid. Following third quarter revenues that fell short of expectations, Forbes added that shoppers, shareholders and the retail giant have reason to worry. And the New York Times argued that Walmart employees deserve both raises and to have the federal government behind them.
As calls for change intensify, academics, business experts and think tanks are presenting ways that Walmart can increase workers’ wages without costing taxpayers, customers or the business a dime. A Fortune article pointed to investors wanting change – Walmart could easily raise wages by 50% without affecting its stock value. And public policy organization Demos released a report this week finding that Walmart could easily pay every employee $14.89 without raising prices by simply not buying its own stock to further enrich the Walton family.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.