'Walmart Illegally Fired Me, But I’m Still Fighting for Change This Black Friday'
Dominic Ware organizing with OUR Walmart for better working conditions.
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A little more than two years ago, Dominic Ware was hired as a part-time cart pusher at a Walmart in San Leandro, Calif. During orientation, he said, the managers painted quite a picture of what a worker’s future at Walmart would look like. They said the store manager and assistant manger were making six figures and had fancy cars and nice homes. “You can have that,” they would say. “Work for us. Dedicate your life to us.”
“I fell for it,” Ware said. “I really looked at it as a place to change my life.”
Ware’s hours were good in the beginning. Hired around the holiday season, he started out happily working 30-40 hours per week, despite his part-time status. But after the holidays, his hours steadily were cut down to 12 hours per week and sometimes as low as six hours a week. As work became less busy, Ware spent more time in the breakrooms, which allowed him to talk with his fellow co-workers. He started listening to their stories. Some, who had worked at Walmart for 10 to 20 years, spoke about how they hated coming to work because they felt disrespected on a daily basis.
Although Ware’s hours were cut and he made only $8.25 per hour (with only a 40 cent raise after a year), he too was most upset by a feeling of disrespect.
He said that Walmart has a "15-foot rule," in which employees were supposed to greet and offer assistance to anyone within 15 feet of them. This came naturally to Ware—it was essentially how his grandmother raised him. But when it came to the higher-ups at Walmart, his hospitality wasn’t returned.
“Our job is to be courteous and kind to anyone in our vicinity. … But I couldn’t even get a ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning,’” he said. “I would walk past these managers and salary members to try to start the day off with a ‘Hi’ or ‘Good morning,’ and they would walk by like they couldn’t even see me or hear me.… Then over the intercom, a few minutes later, they would call, ‘Dominic, hurry up we need more carts.’ It’s like, wait I thought you didn’t see me?… It’s so demoralizing, and it makes a person hate doing anything they ask you to do.”
Ware decided to use Walmart’s open-door policy, and set up a meeting with his store manager. Ware asked her if managers were trained not to interact with employees. He said she was shocked to hear about how the managers treated employees.
“I walked out of that meeting and felt like I accomplished something — like something was going to be done,” Ware said. “But to my let-down it wasn’t. Even she started doing little things here and there that I felt was kind of the same issue I was dealing with her fellow co-workers. So I was pretty much tired of Walmart.”
Things took a turn in Ware’s life when an organizer for Organization United for Respect, known as OUR Walmart, gave him a pamphlet about their coalition of former and current Walmart workers. Ware began doing research and realized that Walmart workers were suffering from similar problems nationwide.
“It wasn’t until I found out that it wasn’t just going on in my store but every store across this country, and there’s an organization trying to fight the same things I was fighting alone, that I decided to make working at Walmart, staying at Walmart and fighting for the workers at Walmart, my top priority,” Ware said.