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Old 06-07-2013, 09:54 AM
Franc Tireur Franc Tireur is offline
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Walmart Activism Is Effecting Change At World's Largest Retailer, Organizers Say

Earlier this year, Janet Sparks was called in to meet her bosses at the Walmart in Baker, La., where she works as a non-salaried supervisor in the customer service department.

Sparks, 53, had approached the managers earlier to complain about the treatment of some of her co-workers. Now, her bosses accused her of “creating a hostile work environment,” Sparks recalled. “They were not going to allow this.”

But Sparks had already become involved with a nascent labor movement seeking to organize people inside the world’s largest retailer, and she was cognizant that she had rights. She presented her managers with a government document that laid out the rights of non-union workers to organize. By the end of the meeting, she said, the bosses had agreed not to discipline her or her co-workers.

“Before I joined the movement, I knew I had rights, but I didn’t know where to look for them,” she said. “We’re standing together as a group. I’m not alone anymore.”

This week, OUR Walmart, the union-backed association that Sparks joined, has been holding demonstrations in Bentonville, Ark. -- Walmart’s headquarters -- leading up to the annual shareholders’ meeting on Friday. Sparks’ experience offers testament to the tenuous and hard-to-measure, yet nonetheless palpable, changes the movement says it has already achieved since first gaining consumer attention last year.

“On the store level, people have won all kinds of victories,” said Dan Schlademan, a campaign director for the United Food and Commercial Workers, one of the main union backers of the movement, rattling off a list: “getting writeups taken away, terminations undone, wages fixed.”

More broadly, he added, the movement is educating people that they have rights.

“There's a transformation happening among Walmart workers that's at the foundation of this,” Schlademan said. “Walmart will never be the same again.”

Walmart asserts that it has always respected its employees and sincerely addressed their complaints, making the labor movement both marginal and unnecessary.

“We listen to our associates every day,” said Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg. “Every associate in every store has an open door to talk to management in the store, in the region, in the company. If they have a concern, we want to know about it.”

The OUR Walmart campaign is at the heart of a broader union-driven effort to improve the lot of those who work for low wages in the fast-food, retail, and warehouse industries, in part by educating them about their rights under state and federal labor laws.

Many of Walmart’s 1.5 million workers earn close to minimum wage, placing them among the fast-growing cohort of American workers who earn so little that they officially live in poverty. Those who earn more often lack the hours they need to make ends meet.

“Working for Walmart has become too costly,” said Sparks, who said she relies on credit cards to eat and buy gas.

The policy of dumping and low cost create a very vicious circle and generate only low wages, so low that people need governement assistance.

This business model should be forbidden!
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