Walmart workers on strike across multiple stores
October 4, 2012
Employees protesting working conditions and retaliation are flexing their organizing muscle. But the first-of-its-kind strike carries risks.
Today, for the first time in Walmart’s fifty-year history, workers at multiple stores are out on strike. Minutes ago, dozens of workers at Southern California stores launched a one-day work stoppage in protest of alleged retaliation against their attempts to organize. In a few hours, they’ll join supporters for a mass rally outside a Pico Rivera, CA store. This is the latest – and most dramatic – of the recent escalations in the decades-long struggle between organized labor and the largest private employer in the world.
“I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m scared…” Pico Rivera Walmart employee Evelin Cruz told Salon yesterday about her decision to join today’s strike. “But I think the time has come, so they take notice that these associates are tired of all the issues in the stores, all the management retaliating against you.” Rivera, a department manager, said her store is chronically understaffed: “They expect the work to be done, without having the people to do the job.”
Walmart is entirely union-free in North America, and has worked aggressively to stay that way. Today’s strike is an outgrowth of a year of organizing by OUR Walmart, an organization of Walmart workers. OUR Walmart is backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, but hasn’t sought union recognition from Walmart; its members have campaigned for improvements in their local stores and converged at Walmart’s annual shareholder meeting.
They say their efforts have won some modest improvements, but also inspired a wave of illegal retaliation by the retail giant, which they charge is more concerned suppressing activism than complying with the law. I reported in July on three workers’ allegations that Walmart retaliated against them for their activism. Since then, OUR Walmart has filed many more Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging further punishment of activists.