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SOUND OFF: Walmart Protest

A group of protestors attempt to submit a letter to the Walmart store manager in Seekonk. What do you think of what they have to say.

A small group of activists staged a brief Black Friday protest at Walmart in Seekonk prior to being escorted off the property by local police. The protestors, who were taking part in a national program, demanded improved working conditions and higher salaries for Walmart workers. They unsuccessfully attempted to submit a letter to the store manager that was addressed to company Chair Rob Walton.

The text of the letter can be found below. What do you think of the letter? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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It used to be that in America, working hard and playing by the rules would let you earn a paycheck that could support a family and opportunities to advance and build a better life for your kids.  But as you no doubt know, these days, hard-working people have to juggle their expenses just to stay afloat in cities and states across the country. 

As the largest retailer and employer in our country, Walmart has considerable power to help rebuild our economy and restore the promise of the American Dream. We are calling on Walmart to change its business practices and open a dialogue with the workers who keep your stores running and move goods at your contracted warehouses to help create a stronger country and economy for all of us – beginning with changes that will improve the lives of workers and their families across the country. 

As the nation’s largest employer, as well as the largest employer of African Americans, Latinos and women, no other corporation has as significant an impact as Walmart does on our communities. And that impact on families is not something to be proud of.  Take OUR Walmart member Dan Hindman, for example, a young father who is living with his parents because his irregular work schedule, sometimes only 12-14 hours per week, keeps him from being able to support his son from finding other steady work. Making less than $10 an hour, much of Dan’s wages go to the pricey Walmart health care plan for himself and his son. Or, consider Limber Herrera, a warehouse worker who came to the U.S. in search of a better life. Although he’s held the same job for four years, Limber is still considered a “temp” worker and was demoted after standing with his co-workers for better working conditions like clean water, working equipment, fans in the 100 plus degree temperatures and an end to retaliation. 

Dan and Limber are not alone. Walmart store Associates receive an average of just $8.81/hour, recently had their health benefits slashed and are struggling to get enough hours – even as the company continues to hire more new Associates. And, the mostly Latino and African American warehouse workers who move goods for Walmart in distribution hubs in Southern California and Elwood near Chicago, IL are employed through a complex hierarchy of contractors. As a result, they lift heavy boxes (up to 200 pounds), earn low pay, and face toxic chemicals, high temperatures, little ventilation and intense retaliation if they complain or report an accident. 

As front line Walmart workers are facing these hardships, the company made almost $16 billion in profits, executives made more than $10 million each in compensation last year, and six members of the Walton Family have more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families combined.

We cannot change the American economy without changing Walmart.  That’s why we are standing up to support workers who are organizing in the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) and Warehouse Workers United (WWU), and joining national community organizations made up of civil rights, faith, women’s, and neighborhood groups to call for immediate changes.

We call on you to immediately adopt our United Call to Change Walmart and Rebuild America:

Improve Workers’ Lives
Pay a minimum of $25,000/year and guarantee quality, affordable health coverage for all Walmart Associates and workers in the company’s U.S. distribution chain.

Rebuild Communities 

Sign on to a national community benefits agreement that ensures that as Walmart expands into new markets, it strengthens communities, protects the environment, and is a responsible employer that pays area standards and wages and benefits to the tradesmen that build their stores, and pays living wages to employees its retail stores and who work in the U.S. supply and distribution chain to move merchandize sold Walmart.

Guarantee Workers’ Rights Agree to a global labor agreement guaranteeing the fundamental human right of freedom of association for all of its associates, instruct suppliers to do the same, and recognize and negotiate with OUR Walmart.

Elevate Global Living Standards Establish a legally binding globally responsible contractor policy requiring contractors and subcontractors under the bidders to properly classify employees as employees and not Independent Contractors, also to treat said employees accordingly for the purposes of workers compensation insurance coverage, employment taxes, social security taxes, income tax withholding, and participate in a bona fide, and active apprentice training program approved, by the Division of Apprentice Training of the Department of labor and Industries. Additionally to provide living wages, worker safety protections, and respect basic human and labor rights, including freedom of association and freedom from racial and gender discrimination.

To rebuild and strengthen our economy, we believe Walmart must meet with OUR Walmart and the Warehouse Workers United, adopt our United Call to Change Walmart and Rebuild America, and mediate the reinstatement of unjustly fired workers.  Doing so will not only improve the lives of millions of workers, but will help Walmart prosper, too, with greater customer service, higher morale and lower turnover.   

We ask that you act immediately and take the opportunity to meet with OUR Walmart members and Warehouse Workers and hear firsthand from these hardworking, dedicated Walmart employees—who like you want to make the customer happy, but also the workers in your stores and supply chain. 

paul November 26, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Walmart has been a cancer to this country, all they do is sell cheap stuff from China. They have forced mom & pop companies out of existence and ruined downtown America forever. Boycott Walmart and help bring back the "Made in the U.S.A." brand!
deb of see-attleboro November 26, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Quite a bold agenda! I won't comment on the demands except to say they are probably unrealistic. However, I will continue to do my part by NOT shopping at "the beast".
Tisiphone November 26, 2012 at 12:55 PM
I have to note that 90% of "retail" work is in "go nowhere" jobs, that is just how it is. No one "works their way up" No one is required to work there.
Steve Hopkins November 26, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Speak loudly and be heard. It is your right here in America. employees around the country must organize, band together, with the same focus and agenda. Have a Walmart Saturday - everyone call in sick - for the weekend. unfortunately you may have to start looking for a new job, but you need to sacrifice and make Walmart do what is right.
Amy November 26, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Walmart workers have voted against the union. Small banks have been forced out by big banks and Walmart buys at the same place in China as Sean Puffy Combs, Sears and several other big coorporations. The Union is the reason booming business in China and Bangladesh.
Wendy Wagner November 26, 2012 at 04:22 PM
No one is required to work there, but if people take welfare instead of these exploitative jobs, they are also criticized for being lazy. The working poor cannot win.
Emcee of Seekonk November 26, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Walmart reported greater earnings in 2012 than they did in 2011, so what incentive do they have to change their business plan? Paying higher wages would only mean higher price of goods and possibly loss sales... Walmart needs to keep its shareholders happy, not its workers. As mean spirited as that may sound, I'm afraid that's where we are at the present time. The moneyed class and the poor who clean up after them will always be with us. Ask Charles Dickens... he earned his living writing about them.
deb of see-attleboro November 26, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Is it the moneyed class or the middle class shopper doing the exploiting? Or maybe both? In the case of the retail workers in the US, I have a tough time even using the word "exploit". Most of these jobs are for that segment of the labor force that is unskilled and not meant to support a family. When I think of exploitation in this country, I think of all those young people who are seduced into spending a fortune on a college education only to be saddled with mountains of debt and a job at Wal-mart, Mcdonalds etc.
Emcee of Seekonk November 26, 2012 at 07:59 PM
The moneyed class are simply investing in stocks... putting their money into companies that are giving a good return on their investment. I don't think they are willfully exploiting, although they must know what is going on and turn a blind eye to it... or maybe they buy off their consciences by donating excess money to some charity. The middle class might not even be involved. I agree with you, I don't think anyone is being exploited per se. Retail workers have options, but the options might more of the same: working odd hours at minimum pay. Until we have a robust economy, and I'm not seeing that any too soon, Walmart will continue to pay minimum wage because they can. I agree on the deal the college kids get themselves into. They graduate with high hopes and end up aging out in jobs not even in their fields. There is no accountability with higher learning institutions. If you want to major in one of the liberal arts, you have one choice: teach it if you can find a job. Or, maybe be a journalist of some sort. No one tells these kids that the debt they are taken on is going to be hard to pay off. I know so many of them. Bright kids with potential that are nearing their 30's, still very under-employed. Some start their lives off with a bankruptcy behind them.
Heidi November 26, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I know Walmart may not have the best scruples, but I think that people should be thankful for having a job. I work as a nursing assistant and love my job even though the pay is AWFUL. Nursing assistants are the backbon of any institution and the level of work varies from place to place. It sickens me to think that walmart, burger king, mcdonalds, etc. often pay their employees more than what a nursing assistant gets...
Daniel F. Devine November 27, 2012 at 10:00 AM
A bold agenda indeed, a MINIMUM of $25,000 per year & quality & affordable HEALTH CARE for A L L Walmart associates is definately UNREALISTIC unless people are willing to pay $25.00 for a cheap $5.00 Walmart shirt made in BANGLADESH for .25 cents.
paul November 27, 2012 at 10:04 AM
No one gets shorted more than bank tellers, many of whom work for large, worldwide banking institutions. Big banks charge for everything but are too cheap to pay for a security guard or give their girls decent pay. They have no problem asking for a bailout though.
deb of see-attleboro November 27, 2012 at 11:29 AM
I don't know about that, paul. Technology has made the traditional bank teller obsolete. On the other hand, the nursing assistant and other lower level health workers are probably paid about the same or less than a Walmart worker or a bank teller.
Steve Hopkins November 27, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Unrealistic???!!! You are out of touch with reality!
Shee G November 27, 2012 at 01:02 PM
KHOLS standards are HIGHER all around and TARGETS also, for their Employees and their work accomplishments. Good Luck with these attempts Walmarts, as there is LOTS of competition around ~ Blessings during these busy Holidays.
Steve Hopkins November 27, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Deb - pretty degrading comments there! I'll bet most of those Wlamart etc workers have some sort of family to support, or at least help to support. college kids need to major in a marketable and growing field of employment. and perhaps, for awhile, move to another part of the country to get a job in their chosen major.
Shee G November 27, 2012 at 01:08 PM
I have spoken to a P.O. Employer and Bank Tellers make about the same as their institutions, but it is a fact technology is changing smaller branches. Sad to say... Less people contact!
Emcee of Seekonk November 27, 2012 at 01:44 PM
@Steve... "...college kids need to major in a marketable and growing field of employment." Is it possible that we are educating too many beyond high school? Who is responsible for guiding students into the right slots? HS Guiding Counselors who might be responsible for a hundred kids every year? Schools often pride themselves in how many students go on to higher learning... it's a selling point for real estate agents, and tax collectors. Bottom line: many kids graduate with overwhelming debt and a future they didn't expect no matter how bright or gifted they are.
Shee G November 27, 2012 at 02:23 PM
For ANYONE who may want to know what is happening in stores and other Businesses also, go to www.indeed.com and in the search bar above write the name of the company, where the red arrows are, cluck re REVIEWS of Previous Employees and I have a couple of great friends that have told me more, since they work there. I wish ALL CUSTOMER-Serving Businesses MUCH LUCK in this slow non-existent economy. People need to work in GOOD SAFE Money Saving conditions and that takes everyone's help. Good HARD Working Dependable Eager NON-Phone talkers and Texters are needed for Employers too, as they become too distracted while trying to work and most become sneaky about it!!! I've seen it in #4 Stores recently. PEACE! JOY and Safety during these BUSY HOLIDAYS Ahead.
Shee G November 27, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Click to I meant...
deb of see-attleboro November 27, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Forgive me, Steve. If I offended anyone, I apologize. That was not my intention. Stating that Wal-mart and other such companies provide employment for unskilled labor at minimum wage was not meant as an insult. In fact, it may be the single good thing these big corporations do!
deb of see-attleboro November 27, 2012 at 03:01 PM
The system is rigged. Parents have got to be realistic. I am on the fence as to whether anyone from within the education system can be trusted. For example, one of my children was uncertain as to whether he wanted to go straight to college after graduating. He could not see making the investment since he was unsure of a career path. We sat with guidance and were warned that if he did not go now, he may never go. Years ago, this may have been true. People married and started families at a younger age. Any dreams were put on the back burner and may never be realized. Nowadays, this simply is not true. I was listening to a "college planner" on the radio recently. He said the number one mistake made by students is to go to college without a plan. The majority of undergrads are undeclared. According to this man, the average time it takes to complete a four year degree is now 5 1/4 years. From experience, I believe it. While very costly to the student, likely very profitable to the education industry.
Emcee of Seekonk November 27, 2012 at 03:58 PM
"He said the number one mistake made by students is to go to college without a plan." Exactly. A lot of kids enroll/matriculate just for the 'fun' of it. And if the parents are picking up the tab, all the more 'fun'.
Amy November 27, 2012 at 04:09 PM
On the June 14 edition of NBC's "Today," President Barack Obama ascribed part of the blame for the high unemployment rate to ATMs. I'm glad Henry Ford didn't blame fewer horses on cars.
Wendy Wagner November 27, 2012 at 06:28 PM
This might be a good time to point out this new study: http://www.politicususa.com/studies-show-political-conservatism-promoted-people-rely-low-effort-thinking.html
Amy November 27, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Wendy, this article is from Real Liberal Politics? Lots of brain matter there. But you can get a good deal on an Obama cup!
Sophia Daniels November 27, 2012 at 06:58 PM
I was listening to talk radio yesterday and someone made a vaid comment. How come people don't complain about Target? People shop at target and typically pay more for some of the same goods that they get at Wal-Mart. I don't know how the wages compare, but retail is not a living where you're likely to walk off as a millionaire. Bottom line - if you don't like walmart, don't shop there, if enough people follow the bandwagon and drink the kool-aid, maybe you can impact change.
Daniel F. Devine November 27, 2012 at 10:41 PM
How am I "unrealistic" Mr. know it all? Your "know it all" advice is definately "unrealistic" & dishonest to "call in sick" when not really sick! If an Walmart associate is unhappy with their employment situation give notice & find employment elseware. The days of orgainizing are over & were necessary when employees had legimate grievences.
Steve Hopkins November 28, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Dan - chill!!! IThat was directed at Deb! The demands are NOT unrealistic. But the people need to band together and protest, not via a union. And need to be on same agenda, country wide to be effective, or hope to be effective. Welfare vs Walmart. ....minimin wages should be high enough to encourage people to work instead of accepting welfare. And, Walmart needs to treat their employees with respect, a decent wage-for male and female employees, health care, no harrasment from supervisors & managers etc. Otherwise band together and protest, rally, raise some Hell and make them take notice.

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