Workers at a Los Angeles Walmart began the first sit-down strike in the company’s history at around 2 p.m. on Thursday. The strike is to protest their low wages and a culture of retaliation at the company. The protestors have been chanting “Stand Up, Live Better! Sit Down, Live Better!” and covering their mouths with tape to symbolize efforts to silence protestors, according to a press release from OurWalmart. Community members are also planning to join the protest later in the evening.
The protestors are asking to be paid a living wage of $15 an hour and to be given consistent, full-time hours. “I’m sitting down on strike today to protest Walmart’s illegal fear tactics and to send a message to management and the Waltons that they can’t continue to silence us and dismiss the growing calls for $15 an hour and full-time work that workers are raising across the country,” Kiana Howard, one of the strikers, said in the press release. Workers have also been raising concerns about understaffing.
Over 2,100 Walmart stores across the country have joined the campaign for a $15 an hour wage. Walmart could not be immediately reached for comment.
Over the last year, Walmart has come under fire for its anti-worker practices. In October, Walmart workers were arrested in New York and Washington DC during protests asking for a $15 an hour wage. During 2013’s Black Friday, there were around 1,500 protests and nine different strikes leading up to it. In June, the Quebec Supreme Court found that the company had violated labor laws by shutting down a store after its workers had unionized. There are currently no unionized Walmart workers in the United States, and workers have been threatened with a loss of benefits if they joined one.
A former worker has also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that the company discriminated against and later fired her for being pregnant. In October, Walmart announced that almost one million workers would have to come in on Thanksgiving Day thanks to the decision to keep the store open all day. While those who will have to come in are being promised extra pay, workers said that last year, they had their shifts cut in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, which cut their extra pay.
28 people were arrested at yesterday’s protest, according to a press release.