Street actions strike a chord

Three Walmart workers were arrested for civil disobedience this morning at a rally in New York City, one of 15 such rallies being held today in 15 cities across the nation. Another rally is going on this afternoon in Long Island.

Each time the workers take action, there is more noise and more support. That’s likely because so many people can relate to their simple requests: fair pay, fair treatment. The Walmart 60 are striking workers who were either fired from Walmart or disciplined for speaking out. There is a lot to speak out about: The company has a thick track record of underpaying workers, discriminating against women and gays, and  forcing workers to rely on taxpayer-funded social safety programs.

Why? Because they can. Because there is a lot they control in the supply chain. Because they want to fatten their portfolios. According to the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition, the Waltons — the family that owns Walmart — has more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families COMBINED. That’s a lot of money.  And it’s been earned on the backs of many workers and many communities who have suffered because of Walmart’s tactics.

The group Make Change for Walmart, citing data compiled by Good Jobs First, reports that, in 21 of 23 states that have disclosed information, Walmart has the largest number of employees on the public rolls of any employer. That means we, the taxpayers, are forced to provide health insurance for people who are doing honest work because their employer — Walmart — can’t be bothered to provide it.

In case you didn’t make a rally today, the Labor-Religion Coalition asks for you to support this workers’ rights movement by signing a petition; by reading and distributing factsheets on how the box-store giant discriminates against gays and women and harms the environment; and by tweeting at #Walmartstrikers.

The AFL-CIO, of which NYSUT is an affiliate, is calling for support for the Walmart workers and has posted stories of individual workers on its website so you can read about how they have struggled.  You’ll meet Elaine,  who joined with others for respect before being fired four days short of her eight-year anniversary at Walmart. She reports being injured on the job and then being singled out and targeted by management. She joined the “Ride for Respect” caravan this past June, joining others seeking the end to retaliation for Walmart workers seeking change.

Since Walmart passed on the Labor Day deadline to respond to workers’ demands, action has ramped up and will continue to do so.

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