OUR Walmart Associates, the 99% Strive to Change Walmart and Change the Economy!
Guest Post By:Treston Davis-Faulkner
This week, as Walmart hosted Wall Street analysts and investors for a week of discussion regarding the company’s financial health and outlook, nearly 100 members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), part of the 99% returned to Walmart’s “Home Office” in Bentonville, AR to demand an “open door” meeting, per the company’s policy, with CEO Mike Duke. In June of this year, OUR Walmart made its first visit to the corporate headquarters seeking a meeting with the CEO in order to deliver the organization’s Declaration for Respect, which members developed in order to identify priority concerns including: a desire for more respect and dignity on the job, more flexibility in scheduling, addressing rampant understaffing and excessive workloads at Walmart among others.
OUR Walmart associates and allies in front of Home Office
As a groundswell of occupations and demonstrations challenging corporate and Wall Street greed continue to gain momentum across the US, the OUR Walmart members approached the front entrance of the Home Office at roughly 12pm on October 12, 2011 carrying signs that read: “Stop Cutting Hours”, I Want to Work Full-Time” and “Ask Us How to Solve Walmart’s Problems”, it was clear the company had called for an increased police and security presence anticipating this visit. The so-called associates, accompanied by allies from social and economic justice organizations across the country, and locally in Arkansas including Jobs with Justice, NOW, National Domestic Workers, the Northwest Arkansas Worker Justice Center, and the United Church of Christ were stopped by police and company security in the parking lot and told that they would not be allowed to send a united delegation of associates to meet with anyone, and that only individual “associates” with the proper company name tags and identification would be allowed to enter the facility. OW members were not going for this game and refused to play while pointing out to the security staff that this is in violation of the company’s own “open door” policy that supposedly allows for “associates” and a person of their choosing to meet with management upon request.
All the while, the organized associates and their allies were also being told by security that the parking lot is private property and they need to return to the sidewalk, or be arrested. As this was going on, OUR Walmart member and associate at a Walmart in Crenshaw, CA, Greshriela Green yelled to security personnel, “why don’t you ask for our Welfare cards too?”, implying that the low wages and sparse benefits the company offers its employees, too often lands “associates” on public assistance.
The members then gathered on the sidewalk and were addressed by Venazi Luna who works at a store in Southern California. Venanzi declared: “Mike Duke and this company do not respect us enough to meet with us after we traveled all the way to Arkansas to talk about how we can work together to improve employee relations, customer service and Walmart’s success! What he doesn’t understand is that we are not going to stop!” Terry O’Neill – President of the National Organization of Women also addressed the group affirming the leadership the members of OUR Walmart are demonstrating by engaging each other and the company’s management nation-wide and vowing that NOW would be with them “every step of the way”!
The associates and their supporters chanted on the sidewalk for roughly 15 minutes holding signs so that those driving by could read them and chanted: What do we Want? Respect! When do we want it? Now!” and “We are the 99%!” As they returned to their buses, they let Home Office know: “We’ll be back, We’ll be back!”
As OUR Walmart members and allies ate sandwiches after the visit to Home Office, and reflected on what just happened, they were fired up and angry that their employer treated them this way. Angie Rodriguez, an associate from Southern CA, mocked the fact that the Company refers to its employees as “associates”: “They call us associates! If we are associates, we would be partners. How they treated us today is not how you treat partners. We are workers! We are the 99%!”
Sarita Gupta, Executive Director of National Jobs with Justice celebrated the courage and leadership being demonstrated by OUR Walmart in taking on the huge task of changing the policies and practices of the countries largest private employer: “In an era of insecurity, OUR Walmart is a part of a fast growing movement of workers who are standing up to rebuild the economy the right way—by creating and maintaining good, union jobs, a strong social safety net, and all at the expense of the banks on Wall Street who stole it from us in the first place.” “While Congress debates a jobs program, we stand united, not merely demanding jobs, we are demanding jobs with justice! We want jobs with decent pay, good benefits and jobs with dignity and respect!”
See coverage on Huffington Post
To support this effort:
- Support OUR Walmart’s declaration at: http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/get-involved/
- Post supportive messages for OUR Walmart members in Arkansas now by writing on the Making Change at Walmart Facebook page wall: http://www.facebook.com/MakingChangeWMT