Walmart Workers Stage K Street Protest, And Walmart Needs To Listen

Isaiah J. Poole

Several dozen demonstrators went to the offices of the Walton Family Foundation, the charitable giving arm of the family that owns a majority share of Walmart, on Thursday to say that Walmart should treat its workers more charitably, and give them a living wage and more full-time work.

The demonstration happened to follow closely behind an announcement by Walmart that it was reducing its sales projections for the year. The chain for some time has struggled to maintain its growth during a time when its working-class customer base has been struggling with stagnant wages.

Walmart, in other words, is reaping the fruits of its leadership in the low-wage economy, with its disregard for the lives of workers. In addition to frozen wages, a major reason for today’s sluggish economic growth, it has become increasingly common for companies to follow the Walmart model of shifting from full-time to part-time workers and to put workers on irregular, on-demand schedules that make it nearly impossible for them to take on second jobs or classes.

The demonstrators attempted to deliver a sign to the foundation office that said that Walmart workers in 1,500 stores have signed on to a call for the retailer to “publicly commit to pay us $15” an hour “and give us consistent, full-time hours.”

Staff at the building that houses the foundation, at 919 18th Street NW, would not allow protestors to go to its offices on the sixth floor. But one of the Walmart workers, Cynthia Murray, called from the foundation lobby and left a voicemail. “We’re here to deliver a message to you,” she said. “We want $15 and full time for every worker in the country.”

“That’s not hard for Walmart, given the amount of money they are making,” she said when she got off the phone. “All we want is a fair wage, and Walmart can leave it down here [referring to her fellow workers] rather than taking it all.”

The think tank Demos today pointed out in an email message that about a year ago, “while one Ohio Walmart was organizing a food drive to feed its own workers, the Walton heirs made almost $3 billion in dividend payments. With that $3 billion, Walmart could give its 825,000 low-wage workers $2.38 more an hour.

Or, as Demos said in a June report, “if Walmart redirected the $6.6 billion spent on share repurchases in 2013 toward investment in human capital, it could give its 825,000 low-wage employees a raise of $5.13 per hour, boosting productivity and sales.”

A coalition of organizations supporting Walmart workers are asking that the retailer raise its base wage to $15 an hour by November 28, the day often referred to as “Black Friday” and the official start of the Christmas shopping rush. If not, they promise “massive protests nationwide.”

To support the effort, sign this petition by Our Walmart and the United Food and Commercial Workers.

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