At a protest against Walmart’s employment practices in Los Angeles on Thursday, 54 workers and community supporters were arrested after sitting down in the middle of a street in the downtown area, according to activists. They say it is the largest act of civil disobedience against the company ever.
The arrests came after Walmart workers in the city went on strike and were joined by community members for a protest on Wednesday. That group called for a minimum of $25,000 a year for all employees, an end to retaliation against workers who have gone on strike or attempted to form unions, and the creation of more full-time positions.
They also came after 21 workers and supporters were arrested at a protest in September, and before that 10 former and current workers were arrested at a protest in front of the company’s Washington, DC headquarters.
In response to Tuesday’s strike, a Walmart spokesperson said that those walking out were a small number compared to its 13,000 employees in Los Angeles county and said that few of its workers participate in these actions because working at the company “provides associates with more opportunities for career growth and greater economic security for their families than other companies in America.”
The company’s U.S. CEO recently divulged numbers that show that only 475,000 of its million “associates,” or retail workers, made more than $25,000 last year, leaving the majority making less. It has also been accused on various occasions of retaliating against strikers by firing or disciplining them. The company has admitted to threatening workers that their benefits could go away if they unionized.
While the company claims to be a “majority full-time workforce,” a recent survey found that over half of its locations were only hiring temporary workers, not for full-time positions. In fact, the lack of a full-time workforce had hurt sales so much thanks to empty shelves and customer dissatisfaction, it recently decided to add more positions ahead of the holiday season.
There are examples of companies that are able to compete with Walmart while paying workers better. Costco competes with Walmart’s Sams Clubs yet pays workers $21.98 an hour on average while getting more revenue and profit per employee. An Idaho-based grocery chain named WinCo beats Walmart prices while paying workers more than $11 an hour and offering generous benefits