On Wednesday morning, Walmart workers went on strike in Los Angeles, a year after the first-ever strike in the city against the company.
The strikers will also be joined by community supporters for a rally at 11:30 Pacific time against the company’s practices. That group will call for a minimum of $25,000 a year for all employees, an end to retaliation against workers who have gone on strike or tried to unionize, and more full-time work.
Wednesday’s worker actions are part of strikes and protests against Walmart across the country, with the biggest on Black Friday last year. The most recent strike was in Miami in October. There is likely to be more unrest on Black Friday of this year as well.
In response to today’s actions, a Walmart spokesperson told ThinkProgress that it has 13,000 associates employed in Los Angeles county, “So I think that gives some perspective of how big this demonstration is compared to what Walmart does and means for the community.” He added, “As we’ve seen in the past when this group puts together demonstrations, you see so few associates participating because they understand what it’s like to work for Walmart. It provides associates with more opportunities for career growth and greater economic security for their families than other companies in America.”
President & CEO of Walmart U.S. Bill Simon recently admitted that most of the company’s retail workers make less than $25,000 a year. It employs about a million “associates,” or in-store workers, and of those 475,000 made more than that last year — leaving 525,000 making less.
The company has been accused of retaliating against strikers by firing 20 in June and disciplining 50 others. Other workers have said they were fired, suspended, or disciplined after taking part in strikes. Walmart has disputed that the workers were fired for striking, saying instead that they were violating the attendance policy. The company has also admitted to threatening workers who look into unionizing stores by saying they could lose their benefits.
When it comes to full-time work, the company says that about 75,000 people are promoted to that status each year and Simon claims that the company is a “majority full-time workforce.” Yet a recent survey found that over half of its locations were only hiring temporary workers, not full-time positions. The lack of a full-time workforce had been leading to empty shelves and customer dissatisfaction, hurting sales, so the company recently decided to add more positions ahead of the holiday season.
Other stores take a different approach and manage to do well financially. Costco, a competitor to Walmart’s Sams Clubs, pays workers $21.96 an hour on average. But it gets much more revenue and profit per employee and has a higher return for investors. A small Idaho grocery chain named WinCo beats Walmart’s prices yet pays workers more than $11 an hour and offers generous benefits.