For the second time in five days – and also the second time in Walmart’s five decades – workers at multiple US Walmart stores are on strike. This morning, workers walked off the job at stores in Dallas, Texas; Miami, Florida; Seattle, Washington; Laurel, Maryland; and Northern, Central, and Southern California. No end date has been announced; some plan to remain on strike at least through tomorrow, when they’ll join other Walmart workers for a demonstration outside the company’s annual investor meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas. Today’s is the latest in a wave of Walmart supply chain strikes without precedent in the United States: From shrimp workers in Louisiana, to warehouse workers in California and Illinois, to Walmart store employees in five states.
“A lot of associates, we have to use somewhat of a buddy system,” Dallas worker Colby Harris said last night. “We loan each other money during non-paycheck weeks just to make it through to the next week when we get paid. Because we don’t have enough money after paying bills to even eat lunch.” Harris, who’s now on strike, said that after three years at Walmart, he makes $8.90 an hour in the produce department, and workers at his store have faced “constant retaliation” for speaking up.
On Thursday, as first reported at Salon, southern California Walmart store workers staged a day-long walkout of their own. Organizers say over sixty workers from nine stores signed in as on strike. About thirty of them were from the same store in Pico Rivera, where strikers and supporters rallied with labor leaders, clergy, politicians. “I’m still thrilled about what happened,” said Harris, who flew in for last week’s walkout. “And it’s given me a lot more energy and a lot more drive.” Other workers were visiting from further away than Texas: When the striking workers returned to work Friday morning, international Walmart workers marched into their nine stores with them, carrying their own countries’ flags.
Reached by email last night, Walmart spokesperson Dan Fogleman said the company “has some of the best jobs in the retail industry – good pay, affordable benefits and the chance for advancement.” Asked about last week’s walkout, he said, “There is nothing new, nor historic, about the fact that labor unions want to organize Walmart. Their rally was just the latest publicity stunt by [the United Food & Commercial Workers union] to seek media attention in order to further its political agenda and financial objectives.” Fogleman said that Walmart “had a few people go out to join the rally – very few when you consider the more than 12,000 people we employ in LA County…. This event was not a factor.”