CREDIT: Marianne Manilov via Twitter
Ten former and current Walmart employees were arrested at a rally in front of the retail giant’s offices in Washington, DC Thursday afternoon. The workers were blocking the door to the DC office to demand the company give them their jobs back and raise wages overall.
The activists say Walmart retaliated against them after they joined a strike calling for wage reform. The company is notorious for cutting workers’ hours while paying them poverty wages. Workers have also reported being denied bathroom breaks or basic medical accommodations. The protesters on Thursday called on Walmart to stop retaliating against workers and offer full-time jobs that pay at least $25,000 a year.
These ten workers are hardly the first to accuse Walmart of intimidation. According to The Nation, 20 workers who participated in a June strike against the chain were fired, while 50 others were disciplined. A spokesman admitted the company tells workers who ask about unionizing that they could lose their benefits. Other workers say they were fired, suspended, and disciplined after participating in strikes.
Barbara Collins, who was arrested Thursday, penned a column for Salon this week explaining why she was willing to risk arrest. “Despite the years I’ve invested there, I was never guaranteed 40 hours a week,” Collins wrote. “Sometimes, I was scheduled as few as eight hours a week. I had to visit three different local food banks one month just to feed my family. Eventually, I had to turn to food stamps.”
Collins is just one of many Walmart employees who must turn to government benefits because Walmart won’t pay them a livable wage. A recent Congressional report found that a single Walmart store’s staff consume roughly a million dollars in public benefits every year in order to survive.
Walmart claims these employees were not fired for participating in the strike, but because they violated the attendance policy by striking instead of showing up to work.