Black History Month Labor Profiles: Bayard Rustin

Black History Month Labor Profiles: Bayard Rustin

During Black History Month, we will be profiling past and present leaders in the intersecting movements to protect and expand the rights of African Americans and working families. We’ll highlight both important leaders of the past and those who are continuing the legacy of those strong leaders who laid the foundation for the present. First up, we take a look at Bayard Rustin.

Rustin served the trade union and civil rights movements as a brilliant theorist, tactician and organizer. In the face of his accomplishments, Rustin was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten and fired from leadership positions because he was an openly gay man in a severely homophobic era. He conceived the coalition of liberal, labor and religious leaders who supported passage of the civil rights and anti-poverty legislation of the 1960s and, as the first executive director of the AFL-CIO’s A. Philip Randolph Institute, he worked closely with the labor movement to ensure African American workers’ rightful place in the House of Labor.

One of Rustin’s most notable moments came when he was tapped to organize the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, an event for which he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Organized during a two-month period, Rustin helped create what would be the largest protest in America’s history at that point. Rustin has been referred to as the “most important civil rights leader you’ve never heard of” and a key mentor of Martin Luther King Jr.

The manual that was handed out by Rustin and other leaders of the march made it clear that economic and workers’ rights were an integral part of the fight for civil rights for African Americans. The list of demands central to the march included a massive job training and placement program with a living wage, a national minimum wage that gave all Americans a decent standard of living an expanded Fair Labor Standards Act and a federal Fair Employment Practices Act that would prohibit discrimination not only by the government, but by employers and unions, too.

“We are all one. And if we don’t know it, we will learn it the hard way.” —Bayard Rustin

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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If Walmart’s Anti-Retaliation Policy Is True, Tell Walmart to Discipline Managers Who Target Workers for Speaking Out

If Walmart’s Anti-Retaliation Policy Is True, Tell Walmart to Discipline Managers Who Target Workers for Speaking Out

Our Walmart members launched a campaign Wednesday calling on Walmart to uphold its publicly stated anti-retaliation policy against workers who speak out for change, better pay and full-time hours. Our Walmart says that many Walmart managers have been illegally spying on, disciplining and even firing workers who spoke out during demonstrations and Black Friday protests and strikes.

The group is calling on Walmart to either discipline those managers or own up to its anti-worker policy. A post on the Making Change at Walmart blog says:

Despite Walmart’s publicly stated anti-retaliation policy, the company has allowed these managers to get away with targeting workers who exercise their rights. These managers have upended the lives of workers, leaving many with no answer as to where money for rent or the next grocery visit will come from.

You can help support the fired and disciplined workers who are fighting back. Click here to see which store managers Our Walmart claims have been breaking the law and then sign the worker petition telling Walmart U.S. Labor Relations Manager Vice President Vicky Dawson to uphold Walmart’s policy and immediately discipline or fire these managers who have been involved in trying to illegally silence workers.

Also, on Wednesday, Mother Jones presented the story of 26-year-old Kiana Howard, who says she was fired from a Sacramento, Calif., Walmart, for taking part in the 2014 Black Friday strike. Read Walmart Cut My Hours, I Protested, and They Fired Me.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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The Labor Movement Is a Lot Bigger Than You Think

While 11.3% of U.S. workers officially belong to unions, the labor movement is much larger. The movement isn’t limited to official union members and the last year showed that, as workers marched side by side, union members or not, to fight back against injustices championed by corporate interests that are out of touch with America’s working families. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said at the federation’s constitutional convention in Los Angeles, “Politicians and employers want to divide us; they try it every single day. They want to tell us who can be in our movement and who can’t, and we can’t let them.”

An article at The American Prospect describes the trend of new ways workers are standing up for their rights:

Those government union membership statistics, however, don’t capture an entire swath of new, exciting and emerging labor activists—’alt-labor’ activists—whom alarmed employers would like to see regulated by the same laws that apply to unions. Yet, before we regulate them as unions, shouldn’t we first count them as unions?

Who isn’t being counted in those official numbers? A lot of people:

  • Striking fast-food workers who are calling for a $15-an-hour wage.
  • Walmart workers who went on strike for Black Friday.
  • Day laborers who have joined one of hundreds of workers’ centers nationwide.
  • Restaurant workers, home health care workers, taxi drivers and domestic workers organizing for workplace power outside traditional unions.
  • Millions of members of Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

These numbers also don’t count people like the college athletes who are seeking to unionize and the many workers who are trying to form unions but are thwarted by employers or weakened labor law.

Some of the extremists opposed to these groups want them limited in their ability to organize, while not wanting to count them in the official numbers, so labor looks weaker. As the Prospect notes:

However, in a 21st century economy in which collective bargaining has been so severely weakened by structural changes and the roll back in workers’ rights, these new labor activists represent an important frontier for people concerned about worker power and economic inequality writ large. You know that workers are on to something when employers start to get nervous. It turns out the low union membership statistics may not be as good a measure of labor’s future as employers would hope.

And the reality behind those official statistics, and the rise of alt-labor, should be heartening to supporters of working families.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Walmart Workers Stand Up on Black Friday in More than 1500 Locations

Today, workers from Walmart stores across the country joined with allies to call upon the company with $17 billion in annual profits to pay its full-time workers a minimum of $25,000 a year and for the company to stop punishing workers who stand up for their rights.  Rallies were held at more than 1,500 Walmart locations.  Working families in nine major cities planned civil disobedience as part of the protests, and arrests were made in numerous cities, including Alexandria, Va.,  Dallas, Tex.,  California, and Illinois.  Learn more about the action and why its important to stand with Walmart workers at

Text BLACK to 235246 to support the Walmart associates speaking up for their rights. Standard data and message rates may apply.

Below are Twitter highlights from the actions.  The Walmart actions can be followed on Twitter at #WalmartStrikers.









Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Will You Sponsor a Walmart Worker?

Walmart associates all over the United States are taking big risks for speaking up about their work environment and going on strike. Many have been fired, and while it is illegal to fire workers for asking for a voice on the job, sometimes these lawsuits can take years.

That’s why Making Change at Walmart is taking steps to empower the Walmart associates who were fired by training them to become organizers so they can continue to fight for change for their former co-workers. From Making Change:

Instead of the problem going away for Walmart when they fire a worker, what if that worker could become an organizer? What if instead of being unemployed, they could use all of their work hours talking to their co-workers about the importance of changing Walmart?

You can stand in solidarity with these workers by donating to sponsor one of them today, so they can keep organizing for good jobs at Walmart.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Take Action: Join the Thunderclap in Support of Walmart Workers

Walmart workers around the country are tired of low wages, insufficient hours and on-the-job intimidation when they stand up for their rights. More and more of them are risking their jobs and their livelihood to demand that Walmart pay them a minimum of $25,000 a year, an amount the company with $17 billion in profits last year can easily afford. Show your support for their Black Friday protests with just a few clicks by participating in a Thunderclap.

A Thunderclap is like an online flash mob via Twitter, Facebook and/or Tumblr. When you go to the Thunderclap page, just click on the button of the social network you want to donate a tweet or post to for the campaign. When the Thunderclap launches on Friday at noon, everyone who has signed up will post automatically on whatever social network they decided to share it on.

Click here to support the Walmart workers who are asking for a living wage of $25,000 a year.

You can also text BLACK to 235246 to find out more ways you can support the Walmart associates. Standard data and message rates may apply.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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You’re Going to Want to Share this Video with Your Conservative Uncle Before Thanksgiving

It might strike you as odd that a company that rakes in billions of dollars each year, instead of paying its workers a living wage, is asking them to instead pitch in and donate food to each other so they can afford a holiday meal.

Check out this new AFL-CIO Walmart video, and don’t forget to find a Walmart Black Friday action near you.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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That Time Stephen Colbert Created A Public Relations Nightmare for Walmart

On Tuesday night, Stephen Colbert helped turn Walmart’s food drive fiasco into a full-blown PR nightmare.

Earlier this week, a Walmart associate shared a photo from a Canton, Ohio store showing empty bins with a sign that read “Please donate food items so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.”

Not only is Walmart not taking responsibility for their low wages and unfair scheduling practices that put many of their employees “in need.” They are placing the burden on their fellow associates to help them out.

“Some critics out there are saying Walmart isn’t doing enough, but they’re wrong because Walmart isn’t doing anything,” Colbert told his audience. “These bins are for employees to donate to other employees. And where can Walmart low-wage employees find cheap food to donate? Walmart.”

“Anyone can afford food there,” he continued, “except people who work at Walmart.”

This is just another way Walmart, despite huge profits and exorbitant executive pay, places its financial burdens on others. Because of Walmart’s low wages, erratic scheduling, and lack of health benefits for more employees, each Walmart Supercenter costs taxpayers approximately $900,000 in Medicaid, SNAP, and other public assistance.

Walmart claims they pay an average hourly wage of $12.78, but independent analyses peg that number closer to $9 an hour. A Walmart executive boasted at a Goldman Sachs conference in September that 475,000 of the company’s U.S. associates make more than $25,000 a year, implying that the vast majority of Walmart’s 1.4 million American employees make less than that.

This business model is a choice, not a necessity. A Demos report showed how Walmart could double hourly wages just by not repurchasing billions of dollars its own stock. An analysis from Fortune magazine’s senior editor Stephen Gandel — hardly a left-winger — demonstrates that Walmart could give its employees a 50 percent raise and still deliver on its promises to shareholders.

Thus far, Walmart is refusing to listen to shareholders, independent business analysts, or its own workers. That’s why we’re standing up on Black Friday – stand with us by finding an event near you.

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If You Aren’t Sure Walmart Needs to Pay Higher Wages, This Photo Will Erase All Doubt

The photo above comes from the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton, Ohio.

The bins aren’t to collect cans for a food pantry somewhere else in the city. They are meant to collect food for Walmart associates themselves.

Here’s some context. The average Walmart sale associate makes $8.81 per hour, according to the independent market research group IBISWorld. That translates into $15,576 a year if the associate works a full-time schedule of 34 hours a week. But that’s actually pegging it quite high, as many associates have highly erratic or meager work schedules that don’t allow them anywhere close to full-time status.

For a three-person household (two parents and a child, for instance), the 2013 federal poverty level is $19,530.

When their paychecks don’t cut it, many associates turn to public assistance to make up the difference. Walmart’s low wages and insufficient scheduling are behind the enormous costs to the taxpayer incurred by each store. One Walmart Supercenter costs taxpayers $900,000 in Medicaid, SNAP, housing assistance, and other forms of public assistance.

But beyond the numbers are the associates themselves, juggling unpredictable schedules and light paychecks, who see the food bins as a sign that the company sees their struggle as the rule, not the exception:

An employee at the Canton store wasn’t feeling that Walmart was looking out for her when she went to her locker more than two weeks ago and discovered the food drive containers. To her, the gesture was proof the company acknowledged many of its employees were struggling, but also proof it was not willing to substantively address their plight.

The employee said she didn’t want to use her name for fear of being fired. In a dozen years working at the company, she had never seen a food drive for employees, which she described as “demoralizing” and “kind of depressing”.

An analysis by Fortune shows that Walmart can afford to give its employees a 50 percent raise without hurting its bottom line. But low wages are only one part of the widespread culture of disrespect, retaliation, and indifference Walmart shows its employees.

More than ever before, associates are standing up to this culture, and we’re standing with them. On November 29, 2013, protests are planned at Walmart stores across the country, and all are welcome to stand in solidarity with associates.

Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer. They have set the standard for an entire generation of business practices. Whether or not we shop there, what they do at their company affects all of us.

Visit to find an event near you.

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Coming Soon to a Walmart Near You: Black Friday Protests for Living Wages

On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that has become one of the biggest days of retail sales in the United States, Walmart workers and other working families are going to rally at the retail giant’s locations around the country, asking the country’s largest employer to pay its workers a living wage and allow them to come together and speak out for change without fear of retaliation.

Find an action near you at

Despite making profits of $17 billion this year, Walmart pays its workers such low wages—the majority of the company’s employees in the United States make less than $25,000 a year—that taxpayers effectively provide massive subsidies to the company through food stamps and other programs. Additionally, the company is the biggest beneficiary of food stamp payments, taking in some 18% of the program’s outlays each year, or about $14 billion.

But the company does little to pay back the taxpayers for that largesse or pass its huge profits on to its workers, who do all of the work that brings in the rest of Walmart’s revenue. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently noted, the heirs to the Walmart fortune, the Walton family, are worth more than $100 billion, which is more than the bottom 40% of America’s workers combined. The family uses a legal maze of loopholes to maintain their fortune and exploits minimum wage and other laws to make it possible to exploit its workers.

Walmart’s working families aren’t taking the company’s greedy tactics lightly anymore, and the number of rallies is increasing each year. Making Change at Walmart and its allies are asking the retailer to make a relatively small increase in payroll costs—paying a minimum full-time annual salary of $25,000—which would not only help Walmart workers be able to provide for their families, but it would boost the economy and, in the long run, Walmart’s profits. Demos conducted a study that found if this policy was implemented by Walmart and other large retailers, it would:

  • Lift 1.5 million retail workers and their families out of poverty.
  • Add more than 100,000 new jobs to the economy.
  • Increase retail sales.

Learn more about the campaign and search for the Black Friday event in your area. Making Change at Walmart, the coalition that is helping Walmart workers organize the Black Friday events, is also asking President Barack Obama to meet with the workers to hear more about the importance of these issues.

Sign the petition asking Obama to meet with the victims of Walmart’s greed.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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