On Its 50th Anniversary, Growing Calls for Walmart to Change

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Led By 10,000-Strong March in Los Angeles, More than 50 Rallies, Marches and Town Halls Held in Cities across the U.S. New Website – http://www.WalmartAt50.org - Launches, Featuring Personal Stories of Walmart’s Impact on Workers and Communities as part of Making Change at Walmart campaign.

As Walmart celebrates its 50th anniversary, growing coalitions of community leaders, workers and faith leaders are calling on Walmart to make changes to help rebuild America at more than 50 rallies, town halls and marches across the country. Events were held in New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Portland, Washington, DC, Denver, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The largest event was in Los Angeles, where over 10,000 residents, community organizations, faith leaders and union members stood with Walmart Associates and workers at Walmart warehouses who are uniting in a growing campaign to call on the retailer to change the way it treats workers and communities.

The L.A. March against Low Wage Jobs was the largest ever Walmart demonstration in U.S. history and was led by workers, small business owners, community and faith leaders and several acclaimed musicians, including Grammy-award winners Steve Earle and Rage against the Machine’s Tom Morello.

As Walmart tells a one-sided anniversary story about the company’s business and its values, workers and community members are sharing their personal stories – and calls for change – on a new website, http://www.Walmartat50.org. Associates are also gathering thousands of signatures for an “anniversary e-card,” outlining united demands calling for Walmart and the Walton Family to change to help rebuild America.

In the aftermath of the alleged Walmart bribery scandal, new energy around the calls for Walmart to change its treatment of workers and communities has been building. In just one year, OUR Walmart, the unique workers’ organization founded by Walmart associates, has grown from a group of 100 Walmart workers to an army of thousands of Associates in hundreds of stores across 42 states. Together, OUR Walmart members have been leading the way in calling for an end to double standards that are hurting workers, communities and our economy.

“I work hard at Walmart’s Crenshaw store, but even with a promotion, I still have to rely on public healthcare for my kids,” said Girshriela Green, Walmart associate and member of OUR Walmart, a growing organization of Walmart associates nationwide. “Working hard should mean getting ahead – but it doesn’t at Walmart. If we don’t put an end to the Walmart model of making a few people rich, and keeping the rest of us struggling, we are going to live in a country with no middle class at all. For my kids and for my community, I’m speaking out for change at Walmart.”

The number of prominent elected officials, financial advisors and community leaders speaking out about problems at Walmart has also been growing. Major pension funds voted their shares against Walmart CEO and members of the board this June amounting to a ten-fold increase, and overall 1 in 3 shares not held by the Walton family against the company’s leadership. Elected officials and candidates, including LA mayoral candidates, are publicly refusing donations from Walmart, and civil rights leaders won their call for Walmart to suspend its funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council which has been advancing discriminatory voter ID and Stand your Ground laws.

In Los Angeles, Congresswoman Judy Chu challenged her colleagues to listen to the concerns of the workers in their communities. “Many Walmart Associates and workers throughout Walmart’s global supply and distribution chain are forced to work for poverty wages, leaving them to struggle to make ends meet,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) who represents parts of Los Angeles and the surrounding counties. “That means Walmart and the super-rich Waltons force American taxpayers to pay the costs of healthcare and other services that many Walmart workers rely on for their economic survival. To make matters worse, it has been reported that because of Walmart, thousands of American small businesses have had to close their doors or lay off employees.”

Walmart has had a recent string of setbacks in its efforts to build new stores in urban areas as communities push back against the company. Walmart recently abandoned plans to develop two stores in the Boston metro area after local residents voiced strong opposition to the planned stores. The company’s New York efforts have been stalled and the New York City Comptroller filed a lawsuit in connection with the recent bribery scandal.

Following reports of widespread worker abuse at Walmart suppliers, including the exploitation of immigrant workers at a crawfish farm in Louisiana, a national investigative commission of civil and labor rights experts have launched a full investigation into Walmart’s failure to enforce its own Standards for Suppliers. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported potential evidence of forced labor and 644 federal citations at 12 other Wal-Mart food suppliers. Still, with no response to the 145,000 Change.org petitions asking Walmart to address the problems at these food suppliers and institute real protections for workers in its supply chain, workers held a 24-hour fast outside the penthouse home of Walmart board member Michelle Burns in New York City today.

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Janna Pea
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