Walmart workers from stores across Cincinnati and Dayton walked off the job on Wednesday in protest of the company’s illegal firings and disciplinary action against co-workers who have spoken out for better jobs for their families. The strike follows a series of events in Phoenix, AZ where Walmart moms tried to discuss their concerns of low pay directly with board chairman Rob Walton.
Citing the company’s low wages, erratic scheduling, and retaliation against workers, local Walmart associates, community supporters, and elected officials are calling on new Walmart CEO Doug McMillon to publicly commit to take the company in a new direction. Walmart is the largest and most profitable corporation in the country; its employees generate nearly $16 billion in profits a year and contribute to growing the wealth of the Waltons, the richest family in America.
“I’d like to have a kid someday, but I look around and I think it’s not possible. Life is too hard and I have no time,” says Antonio Bomar, one of the strikers. Bomar works overnight at Walmart and often works a second job during the day. “What does it teach a child about the value of hard work when they can look around and see their parents working hard, doing all the right things, and never getting ahead? We’re on strike so that we can work to make our jobs better without fear of being punished or fired.”
The majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year – forcing many of them to rely on food stamps and other taxpayer-supported programs to get by. Working women—increasingly the breadwinners and decision makers in households—make up 57% of Walmart’s workforce and are often hit hardest by the employer’s poverty wages. A report out this week from Demos shows that if the nation’s largest retailers raised wages to $25,000 a year for full-time work, 437,000 women working in retail—and 900,000 people total—would be lifted out of poverty or near poverty. It also shows the GDP would grow an estimated $6.9 to $8.9 billion solely from women’s portion of the raise.
“I’m working to support my family and build a better future for my son,” says Tera Whitehair, a Dayton Walmart worker who went on strike today. “But we wouldn’t even be making ends meet without food stamps. That’s not right and it doesn’t have to be this way. I work for the richest company in the world. We’re on strike today to end retaliation—so we can stand up and speak out about the need for good jobs without being punished.”
Worker shareholders who are OUR Walmart members —including many striking moms—are set to attend the company’s annual shareholder meeting this Friday, June 6 in Bentonville, AR to take their concerns directly to shareholders.