7 Signs the National Outcry Against Walmart Will Lead to Big Changes
Photo Credit: OUR Walmart
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“People across the country are starting to see the real Walmart,” said Q Knapp, a Texas Walmart worker who went on strike Wednesday. “And that’s why I will continue to stand up because the time for change is now.”
Indeed. If there were ever a time to make change at the nation’s largest private employer, it’s now. Walmart’s overwhelming contempt for workers, expressed through its continued low wages and poor benefits, its retaliation against workers who organize, and its sole goal of profit — even pushing Black Friday deals up two hours to begin on 6pm Thanksgiving Day — has caused outrage. The outcry against Walmart’s working conditions has been quickly picking up steam, becoming a national topic of conversation right in time for the 1,500 Black Friday protests scheduled across the country, where people will rally in front of stores to demand respect and fair treatment.
Knapp, who has worked at Walmart for 19 years, said she went on strike because she was “tired of being disrespected.” She said that when her brother went to the hospital after having a heart attack, she received Walmart’s approval to spend time in the hospital with him. But when she returned to work, she was disciplined for being absent. Knapp said she has also witnessed a fellow coworker get terminated after fighting for better working conditions.
“Walmart is a bully, and the only way to fight back against a bully is to speak up,” Knapp said. “The message to Walmart is simple: we will not be silent.”
And they haven’t been. The workers are making a lot of noise and sparking a nationwide dialogue. Here are seven signs that their actions are turning the tide on workers’ rights.
1. The NLRB finds Walmart’s retaliation tactics illegal.
In a huge victory for labor, the National Labor Relations Board found that Walmart violated the rights of 117 of its workers. On Monday, the NLRB released a statement affirming that Walmart stores “unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees” for both “having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests” and “in anticipation of or in response to employees’ other protected concerted activities.”
The NLRB charges finally address Walmart’s longstanding history of intimidating workers who desire better working conditions. In the past, Walmart boasted that it would tell employees who asked about unions that their benefits and vacations “might go away.” These 117 workers may receive back pay, reinstatement and a reversal of disciplinary actions. A Walmart spokesperson has said that the company will defend itself and that its actions were “legal and justified.” If Walmart does not reach settlements with the parties, the NLRB will issue complaints, which would lead to a hearing.
2. The fear is fading, and workers continue to speak out.
Instead of silencing workers, Walmart’s harsh retaliations are actually encouraging more and more workers to speak out. Even several fired employees are continuing the fight and making sure their stories are told and voices are heard. This community of former and current workers, known as OUR Walmart, has been highly courageous. As the saying goes, courage is contagious. Check out OUR Walmart’s video here featuring workers who have been fired. The best part: their rewording of Walmart’s motto “Save Money. Live Better” to “Speak Out. Live Better.”
3. Workers can’t wait for Black Friday.
Empowered more than ever, all this speaking out has led to amped-up action, happening even before the planned Black Friday events. In recent weeks, strikes were reported in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. Perhaps the most notable action was in early November, when more than 50 Walmart workers in Los Angeles were arrested after taking part in the largest act ever of civil disobedience against Walmart. These escalating actions are the leadup to the 1,500 scheduled Black Friday protests around the country.