When Walmart Cut Insurance for 30,000 Workers, This Is How We Responded

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Last October, Walmart cut health insurance for about 30,000 part time workers. Starting January 1, 2015, only part-time associates who work 30 to 34 a week qualify for coverage.

This recent move from the country’s largest private employer is the latest in a series of steps to pare down health care costs, often at the expense of local taxpayers. It wasn’t long ago that Walmart offered health coverage for all part-time workers. But in 2011, Walmart cut coverage for new employees who worked fewer than 24 hours. In 2012, they went even further, dropping insurance for those who worked fewer than 30 hours a week. Now, those workers who were grandfathered into the health plan have been dropped.

Keep in mind: despite recent improvements, individual Walmart associates have very little control over their schedules, and managers are able to cut costs by keeping workers’ hours under the 30-hour threshold. And for those associates who actually qualify, the company’s health care plan is fraught with problems.

Luckily, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s now easier for individuals to purchase health coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace. To help everyday workers, OUR Walmart and Working America Health Care have teamed up to offer Walmart associates an even better deal.

OUR Walmart members who enroll in a qualified health plan through Working America Health Care will have access to special member benefits: dental and vision discounts, as well as a personal Health Advocate to answer questions and help workers deal with insurance companies.

This past November, many of us stood up for Walmart associates on Black Friday. More than 11,000 Working America members signed petitions calling for $15 an hour and access to full-time hours for all Walmart workers. We made calls, shared information with friends, and joined in solidarity with Walmart associates at stores across the country.

But making change at Walmart and in the lives of its workers is about more than just one day: and that’s why we’re incredibly proud of this collaboration to help provide answers, stability, and a measure of security for Walmart workers and their families.

Are you a Walmart worker? Do you know someone who is? Click here to learn more about the available health care benefits or call 888-693-0159 for more information.

Whether or not you work at Walmart, you can have access to special benefits by enrolling in health coverage through Working America Health Care by February 15. Click here to learn more or call 855-698-2479.

Working America Health Care is a joint partnership between Working America and Union Plus with the mission of informing folks about the Affordable Care Act and connecting them with quality health insurance coverage.

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Wal-Mart’s Manufacturing Recovery?

Wal-Mart’s Manufacturing Recovery?

President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address, told Americans that manufacturing in the United States is back. The president is right to applaud job creation in manufacturing. But both elected leaders and the public should be wary of one company, in particular, falsely taking credit for this “manufacturing renaissance”: Wal-Mart.

Two years ago, Wal-Mart launched the U.S. Manufacturing Initiative, a pledge to create 1 million new jobs over the next 10 years through buying “U.S.-made goods.” But Wal-Mart has done very little to improve America’s jobs. In fact, it continues to harm our nation’s job market.

Wal-Mart is the largest buyer of consumer goods in the world and is the nation’s largest importer of goods. Wal-Mart’s public relations campaign about U.S. manufacturing aims to distract Americans from two core aspects of Wal-Mart’s business model.

First, as the country’s largest private-sector employer, the company has played a leading role in driving down service-sector wages for millions of working families. The majority of workers in Wal-Mart stores are paid less than $25,000 a year.

Second, the company is hoping Americans will forget that Wal-Mart has played a leading role in the offshoring of America’s jobs.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers: Obama says more than 780,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since February 2010. Yet, America’s workers have lost an estimated 3.2 million jobs, most of which were in manufacturing, since 2001 due to trade imbalances with China alone. Between 2011 and 2013, 500,000 jobs alone were eliminated or displaced, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute. This job loss—mostly in advanced technology manufacturing, meaning parts for electronics—created a gap in job creation in the manufacturing sector. Manufacturers need to hire at a much higher rate to even approach closing the gap.

Wal-Mart has not made public any real numbers regarding its impact on U.S. manufacturing job creation. The suppliers that are part of the Wal-Mart initiative have created only about 2,000 U.S. jobs in the past two years, according to anecdotal evidence on Wal-Mart’s website.

Sadly, even Wal-Mart’s poster child for its U.S. manufacturing initiative, Element Electronics, seems to be little more than window dressing. Wal-Mart sells Element televisions marketed as “American-assembled” at Wal-Mart stores nationwide, yet as The Wall Street Journal reported last year, the TVs arrive in the United States nearly completely assembled from China in boxes labeled “Assembled in the U.S.A.” Workers in South Carolina check for defects, install a memory card and put the TVs back in the boxes, to be shipped to Wal-Mart. This is not the kind of high-skill, high-investment manufacturing that will help rebuild America’s middle class.

Wal-Mart says it wants to be part of the solution of rebuilding our manufacturing sector. But to walk the walk, Wal-Mart needs to sell a much higher percentage of goods in its stores that are actually manufactured in the United States, thus helping to stop the offshoring of jobs and creating real, quality manufacturing jobs in America. And if Wal-Mart wants to really make a difference for America’s families, the company should listen to its 1.3 million associates when they speak out for “$15 and full-time”—an income a person can actually live on.

Wal-Mart is right about one thing. The company is so big that its choices move our economy. When it outsources, manufacturing jobs disappear. When it pays poverty-level wages, other employers follow suit. If it chooses to really support raising wages and rebuilding America’s manufacturing, it could make a real difference.

As President Obama moves forward in his efforts to rebuild America’s manufacturing and create good jobs, he and our country need something more than PR gestures and poverty wages from our nation’s largest importer and largest employer.

Damon Silvers is the AFL-CIO policy director and special counsel. This article originally appeared on The Hill.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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‘I Miscarried on Walmart’s Property’

Courageous current and former Walmart workers are calling on the mega retailer to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers including lighter duties where medically necessary and being able to drink water or sit down while at work. They formed a group called “Respect the Bump,” which made huge strides earlier this year when Walmart announced it would make accommodations for workers with complicated pregnancies, including lighter duties when medically necessary.

Unfortunately this policy does not extend to all pregnant workers and is not being implemented consistently, so many women are still not receiving the accommodations they need.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, stand with Walmart workers who are fighting for their right to speak out without fear of retaliation.

Find a Black Friday protest near you and find out more ways to get involved: www.BlackFridayProtests.org.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Hey, Walmart, Want to Fix Those Sales Problems? Why Not Invest in Workers?

An internal memo, recently leaked by a Walmart manager, urged store managers to improve lagging sales, primarily through addressing problems with understocked shelves and with keeping fresh meat, dairy and produce stocked and aging or expired items off the shelves. Such complaints are widespread at Walmart stores and are likely a significant factor in the company’s sales, which have lagged for 18 months. While the memo catalogs problems the company faces, it ignores the two most obvious solutions—giving workers adequate hours and paying those workers the $15 living wage they’ve been calling for.

Janet Sparks, a member of the OUR Walmart campaign seeking to improve wages and working conditions, said that substantial staffing cuts that began in 2010 are a big part of the problem: “Understaffing, from the sales floor to the front end, has greatly affected the store.”

Retail consultant Burt P. Flickinger III echoed Sparks’ comments:

Labor hours have been cut so thin, that they don’t have the people to do many activities. The fact that they don’t do some of these things every day, every shift, shows what a complete breakdown Walmart has in staffing and training.

Want to stand with Walmart workers? Get involved at blackfridayprotests.org.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Walmart Wouldn’t Make a Dime Without Its Workers

Walmart Wouldn't Make a Dime Without Its Workers

A group of Walmart associates marched today from the AFL-CIO to the Washington, D.C., Walton Family Foundation’s offices to deliver more than 15,000 signatures from workers asking Walmart to pay $15 an hour and provide full-time hours.

Shouts of “We’re fired up! Can’t take it no more!” rang out as the workers and hundreds of supporters and allies marched down I Street and made their way to the foundation offices. Before the workers attempted to deliver the petitions, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka reminded everyone that Walmart, which rakes in billions every year, wouldn’t make a dime without its workers, yet pays wages so low that many of its workers need to rely on public assistance and food stamps to get by.

One Walmart worker, Isaiah, shared heartbreaking stories of seeing co-workers cry in the Walmart break room when they found out their hours had been cut, making it impossible to provide for their families.

When the workers got inside the office, the building manager claimed no one from the Walton Family Foundation was working today (um, OK) and said they couldn’t call the office because they didn’t know the number. “We’ll be back,” shouted the determined workers, including Bene’t Holmes who was leading some of the chants. Holmes said they weren’t going to leave the petition with the front desk and promised this is not the last time they would attempt to hand deliver those signatures.

Following the demonstration outside the office, 15 Walmart workers and supporters sat down in a cross section of the street in front of Walmart heir Alice Walton’s condo and took arrest. See some aerial views from the action below:

The workers were accompanied by union members and allies from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), AFSCME, AFT, Jobs with Justice, UNITE HERE, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), UAW, United Steelworkers (USW), the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and many others. 

See more tweets here and some photos from a similar action in New York City today:

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Five Reasons Walmart’s New ‘Commitment’ to American Manufacturing is Nonsense

Walmart is hosting a manufacturing summit in Denver this week as part of its new program to supposedly invest in products made in America for its stores across the country. The retailer is claiming its new plan will invest $250 billion over the next decade and create 1 million jobs. We’re not buying it.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addressed Walmart’s summit and announcement:

But workers will not benefit from a Walmart-ification of our manufacturing sector. Jobs in the Walmart model won’t restore America’s middle class or build shared prosperity given the company’s obsession with low labor costs and undermining American labor standards. And the company’s ‘commitment’ to American manufacturing is meaningless unless it actually increases the proportion of its products that are American-made.

Here are five reasons why Walmart’s plan is nonsense:

1. The whole thing is misleading. When you dig deeper, you find that all Walmart is doing is counting the company’s natural growth as “new” investment. If the company maintains its current percentages of U.S.-sourced goods and continues to grow at the same rate as it has the last three years, $262 billion will be spent on U.S.-made goods anyway without Walmart making any changes or doing anything new. Doing a little less than what you’ve been doing and calling it “progress” isn’t exactly admirable.

2. As Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing notes, Walmart’s altruism doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny:

…in some cases—the economics now favor “reshoring” of work back to the U.S., due to an emerging domestic energy cost advantage, rising wages in Asia, and wage stagnation in the U.S. (which Walmart might know something about). And don’t forget to consider the challenges that come from outsourcing: supply chain disruption, quality and inventory control issues, intellectual property theft, and high shipping costs.

3. Walmart is the biggest importer in the United States and it has been increasing how much it imports every year. The company now imports 2.5 times as much as it did in 2002. Walmart should make a solid commitment to cut back on its growth in  imports, after decades of massive increases, to create a real net gain for American workers.

4. Walmart is off to a rocky start helping create U.S. manufacturing jobs. In the first year of the new plan, Walmart created only 2,000 new jobs, putting it way behind schedule toward reaching that goal of 1 million new jobs.

5. As the largest private employer in the nation, Walmart should start with itself to create real change for America. At the rate Walmart workers are paid, they won’t be buying many U.S.-made products or imports. Walmart must invest more in its own workforce if it wants a “buy American” strategy to succeed.

Walmart cashiers make, on average, less than $25,000 a year. An April 2014 study by Americans for Tax Fairness estimated that subsidies and tax breaks for Walmart and the Walton family cost taxpayers approximately $7.8 billion per year, including about $6.2 billion in assistance to Walmart workers due to low wages and inadequate benefits.

Trumka concluded:

This initiative seems like an attempt to change the conversation from the need for Walmart to improve jobs for its 1.4 million retail workers in the United States. If Walmart is truly committed to rebuilding the American middle class, it can start with its own workers, most of whom make less than $25,000/year and struggle to make ends meet.

Walmart should use its two-day summit to prove the company is committed to real and substantive change and an end to corporate whitewashing.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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On Thursday, Let’s Talk About Taxpayers Subsidizing Walmart

On Thursday, Let's Talk About Taxpayers Subsidizing Walmart

As part of the ongoing Upworthy series, Workonomics, there will be an UpChat this Thursday to discuss how Walmart’s low wages mean that taxpayers end up subsidizing those workers to the tune of $6,000 per employee each year. Wages and benefits are so low for the country’s largest employer that many of the company’s workers are forced to take part in Medicaid, housing assistance, child care subsidies, food stamps and other government lifelines. Meanwhile, the Walton family, who owns the company, has more wealth than the bottom 40% of the country combined.

All you need to participate this Thursday, June 5, at 2 p.m. EDT is a Twitter account. Learn more details on how to participate in the UpChat and find the conversation on Twitter by looking up the hashtags #UpChat and #WalmartEconomy.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Are You Trapped in the Walmart Economy?

Workers at Walmart are mounting a new initiative not only to get their stories of how Walmart’s low wages, disrespect and intimidation are trapping them in a Walmart economy, but how millions of other workers and their families are caught in that same economy.

A Walmart economy is an economy of inequality manipulated by corporations like the $16 billion-a-year-in-profits retail behemoth and other corporations and 1 percenters like the Walton family, the richest in America.

To workers at Walmart, a Walmart economy means “having to decide between paying my bills and being able to take a day off work to stay with my sick daughter,” says LaShanda Myric, a Walmart worker in Denver.

For Richard Wilson who works at a Chicago Walmart, it means “….Working full-time, but not being able to pay back my student loans.”

What does the Walmart economy of inequality mean to you? Is it struggling to pay your bills or drowning in debt? Is it forgoing health care because you can’t afford health insurance or being unable to retire?

Use the hashtag #Walmarteconomy to tweet or post a photo or video to Instagram to say what the Walmart economy means to you. You also can go to the new Walmart Economy website and share your story.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Minnesota Lawmakers Meet With Minimum Wage Workers for a Reality Check

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Imagine what it’s like to be 6 months pregnant, relying on the bus to get you to and from your two minimum wage jobs. How would it feel to have nothing left over after you paid for food and rent?

Nationally, his is a familiar plight for many low-wage workers. For Minnesota-based Judith Nunez, Jim Parsons and Lucila Dominquez, this is reality.

Yesterday, two of the Minnesota legislators participating in our Working America Minimum Wage Challenge sat down with minimum wage workers for a “Reality Check” meeting. The conversation shed a powerful light on what it means to be a minimum wage worker.

Dominquez, whose wages give her enough for food and shelter only, revealed that tough times have led her to advocate for workers’ rights. “I am unable to do anything else [with my money], which is why I’ve gotten involved in organizing for raising our wages and working conditions,” she said.

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For Working America member Nunez, who is pregnant with her first child and often exhausted from her hectic work schedule and difficult commute, the fight for minimum wage is about equality and community. “We are all human beings and it shouldn’t be this hard for any of us to provide the basic needs we all share,” she says.

It shouldn’t be difficult, but the reality is that more than 200,000 Minnesotans are working for the minimum wage of $7.25, often for companies that post enormous profits. Among the 50 low-wage employers, 92 percent were profitable last year, and 63 percent are earning higher profits than they were before the recession. That’s the reality of minimum wage work in this country and this is what it looks like.

“I work at the Mall of America, where there are a huge number of people working for minimum wage. I see them work very hard and make a lot of money for the companies who employ them. It seems only right to me that their work should be valued at a higher level and all workers should be getting at least $9.50 (an) hour,” said Jim Parsons, a 53 year old father of three from South Minneapolis. Parsons, unable to find work in his field, works three part-time jobs to support himself and his three children.

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These people, like so many others, are the face of minimum wage workers in America. They are not the stereotype of teenagers making extra pocket money. They are adults, current or expecting parents, oftentimes the breadwinners of their household. They work diligently, make tough choices like skipping meals, and still have difficulty making ends meet; often they end up relying on taxpayer-funded services like Medicaid and SNAP just to get by while their employers continue to pocket record profits.

“We all work hard, we all get tired, we all struggle to get by and we all deserve better,” Dominquez said.

Send a message to the Minnesota legislature: tell them it’s time to raise the minimum wage.

 

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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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