Today, Walmart and Gap announced they would develop their own nonbinding safety code and turned their backs on the accord developed by international and Bangladeshi unions, retailers and other groups—groups with firsthand knowledge of what’s needed for worker safety and of the deadly consequences of inaction.
According to the fashion blog Fashionista, the Walmart-Gap plan:
probably won’t be of a legally-binding nature, since that’s what Gap objected to in the Bangladesh safety accord. While Gap and Walmart are no doubt trying to quell consumer backlash, it will likely backfire if this new plan doesn’t place enough legal responsibility on retailers’ shoulders.
deeply concerned about Walmart and Gap’s plan to move forward with a corporate-controlled, nonbinding process for adopting building safety standards in Bangladesh….This is a matter of life or death. Quite simply, nonbinding is just not good enough.
Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director of the corporate watchdog SumOfUs.org, told Fashionista:
There is a serious gap in Gap’s credibility if it says that it only wants to sign the agreement if it is not legally binding.
In an effort to lend an air of legitimacy to their plans to develop their own safety accord, Walmart and Gap have asked former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell and former Sen. Olympia Snowe to serve as “independent facilitators.” But, said the AFL-CIO and Change to Win:
While former Sens. George Mitchell and Olympia Snowe are both respected for their ability to forge compromises, we cannot afford to compromise the lives of Bangladeshi workers. We are determined to get this process right, and we will express our concerns to both former senators and ask that they not participate in undermining the ongoing and more productive process led by IndustriAll and UNI global labor federations.
When word leaked out late last year that Walmart was eyeing a piece of the prime Springfield Avenue Marketplace project in Newark, N.J., more than 50 local community, faith, labor and other groups said the last thing Newark needed was a Walmart that kills local small businesses, replaces those jobs with low-paid part-time work and lowers community standards.
The Walmart-Free Newark campaign mobilized local residents, business and lawmakers. That community action—organized by Working Families United for New Jersey—paid off with the recent announcement that regional and working family-friendly ShopRite—not Walmart—will take that prime Marketplace space. The group’s chair, Charles Hall Jr., says:
The determination of the Newark community was critical to defeating Walmart’s plans to build a store in their city and demonstrates the extraordinary strength of community solidarity. Not only were 50 local community groups able to overcome the world’s largest retailer, but, because of their efforts, Newark can now look forward to welcoming a family-friendly ShopRite to the community.
ShopRite, says Hall, will be “built, staffed and operated union and uplift the community by creating family-sustaining middle-class jobs for local residents.”
The coalition, including the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, testified before the Newark Planning Board and Newark City Council and held several demonstrations and rallies to oppose what Hall says is “Walmart’s plans to strong-arm its way into Newark.”
Through a combination of grassroots activism and lawsuits citing Walmart for an inadequate environmental impact study, working families were successful in keeping Walmart out of Newark.
Last week, Walmart said it would speed up its plan to hire returning military veterans that it had announced in January. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says Walmart’s latest move “is more about public relations than honoring our heroes.”
We owe it to our returning veterans to make sure they are treated as the heroes they are, rather than as symbols used to ‘greenwash’ Walmart’s eroding brand. After facing enemies abroad, is an $8.81 an hour part-time job the best we can offer returning veterans?
I work for a large national retailer. How do you get them to remove caps on wages? I’ve been told that it’s “not a cap,” and that I just “chose not to advance”! There are not enough management positions for everyone. I have worked for the company for 26 years and now I will never make any more money. Is that even legal?
- Not living better, Kansas
It’s understandable that it feels like your wages are actually capped. After all, you’ve been with the same company for quite a while. That’s the problem you face when the power to decide whether or not you get a raise rests only with the boss.
In a way, there really is a cap on wages. And it’s not just happening to you. Worker productivity has increased steadily for the past forty years but wages have not. We’re working harder and creating more value, but we’re not getting any of that back. Corporations and rich CEOs are so out of touch that they no longer feel like they should have any responsibility to share the increased profits they earn. I know I keep citing the same statistics, but I think they’re key to understanding what change is needed.
Your prospects for a raise shouldn’t just be a limited number of management positions—especially when your advancement is completely in your boss’s control. Part of the reason why we’ve seen this rise in inequality is that workers and communities accepted that it just has to be that way. I say, no way! This is a big-picture problem, but one we can take on if we band together—like workers for one national big-box retailer or fast food workers in New York City have been doing. There is plenty of room even in this economy to treat workers with respect and dignity, and to do so through a fairer share of the profits they create. Ready to do something about it? You definitely aren’t alone.
If there was any question as to what kind of store the bill was targeting, here’s a hint: the proposal defines “large retailers” as “businesses operating an indoor store of at least 75,000 square feet and whose corporate parent has sales of at least $1 billion.” Remind you of anyone you know? It starts with “wal.”
Wal-Mart announced plans in late 2011 to open as many as six stores in the District of Columbia, including east of the Anacostia River where unemployment is high and retail options are scarce. While there are many problems with the way Wal-Mart treats its workers, the concern about its low wages are paramount.
But a policy mandating a living wage for big box stores could mitigate many of the potential pitfalls of Wal-Mart’s expansion into the city – not to mention Lowes, Costco, Home Depot, Macy’s, and other potential employers. If Wal-Mart employees are paid enough to lift them out of poverty, that’s fewer people on welfare, SNAP and other public assistance programs. If Wal-Mart employees can get health insurance through their work, that’s fewer people on Medicaid – and fewer people using the emergency room as their primary care.
Furthermore, the success of such a citywide policies could embolden other communities to start dictating terms to Wal-Mart, instead of the other way around. You can operate in our community, they’ll say, but you’re going to operate by our rules.
Walmart workers around the country are mobilizing for a “Black Friday” strike to protest working conditions, wages and retaliation against workers who speak out. Meanwhile workers and their allies at a Walmart warehouse are picketing and rallying today in front of the Riverside County, Calif., facility followingWednesday’s strike by some two dozen warehouse workers.
Walmart store workers are asking people nationwide to support them on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. They ask that supporters take action that spreads the word about their strikes and demonstrates to Walmart a wave of support for workers who are speaking out about poor working conditions, low wages, irregular hours and more.
Take the Black Friday Pledge to say that you will stand with workers on the busiest shopping day of the year. On the Corporate Action Network website, we are gathering locations for actions and events supporting Walmart strikers, as well as materials. Enter your city or ZIP code to see if we have something scheduled near you or adopt your own store.
If you want to help in another way, why not sponsor a striker? The brave act of going out on strike also comes with an economic cost. By making a donation, you can help to ensure that Walmart strikers receive a $50 grocery gift card.
Use our Share for Respect Facebook app to tell your Walmart worker friends about what’s going on.
Join the conversation on how to change Walmart by contributing art and ideas to our Tumblr.
Yesterday’s warehouse action centered on retaliation workers have faced since a September work stoppage protesting unsafe working conditions. Javier Rodriguez, a warehouse employee who was on the picket line, told KESQ TV:
We are standing up for ourselves to create a safe work environment, but we are continuously punished for it. We decided to strike again because we are tired of the retaliation and then, like clockwork, instead of addressing our concerns, the warehouse singled us out and punished us again.
In other Walmart news, The Nation’s Josh Eidelson reports that one former Walmart worker in Orlando, Fla., who was visiting his former store to talk to workers about the upcoming actions, was handcuffed by police after store management “intentionally misled Orlando police” into detaining the worker. He was released after management failed to provide evidence of its charges. Read the full story.
He beat out some tough competition, but Rob Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart’s board of directors, is the top vote getter in the 11th annual Jobs with Justice (JWJ) Scrooge of the Year election.
Walton deemed a “billionaire bully” by Brave New Films, has an estimated net worth around $21 billion, JWJ reports. As a family, the Waltons control 49 percent of Wal-Mart and are, says JWJ, the richest family in the United States, with a combined net worth is $93 billion. The Walton Family has as much wealth as the bottom 30 percent of American families combined—more than 35 million families.
The family’s dividends from their Wal-Mart stock alone are more than $2 billion a year. Just using their dividends, they could ensure that a million Wal-Mart employees make at least $12 an hour instead of the current average of $8.81 an hour.
Just last month Wal-Mart, under Rob’s leadership, slashed health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart employees and their families—right before the holidays. What a scrooge!
Click here to learn more about the runners up, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Publix supermarkets and Eddie Hull University of Massachusetts director of housing and residential life.