‘Wal-Mart Moms’ Challenge Wal-Mart Chairman

BENTONVILLE, Ark. –Opening a new front in their long campaign to improve Wal-Mart, the “Wal-Mart moms,” members of the employee group Our Wal-Mart, are taking on the company’s chairman and namesake, Rob Walton.

And their demands, including a shareholder resolution by the Teamsters calling for an independent chairman at the monster retailer, have enthusiastic backing of the nation’s unions.

The moms are part of a larger movement of workers conducting an inside campaign to force Wal-Mart to raise its notoriously low pay, improve its bad benefits, give its workers full-time 40-hour-a-week jobs with set schedules and end its retaliation against workers who speak out.

The moms and their allies will be part of a demonstration at the anti-worker retailer’s shareholders meeting in Bentonville in the first week of June.  Wal-Mart workers, members of Our Wal-Mart, also plan strikes at stores nationwide.  A separate group of Wal-Mart Moms will picket in front of Rob Walton’s mansion in Phoenix.  And the moms will have institutional muscle behind them.

Several unions, including the Teamsters, the UAW’s Voluntary Employees Benefits Association – which runs the health insurance for its GM and Chrysler workers – and the Change To Win investment group, filed shareholder resolutions for Wal-Mart’s meeting.  And Institutional Shareholder Services recommends that mutual funds vote to force Rob Walton out of his chair and for the Teamsters’ move to have an independent chair instead.

Some Of Us, an online mobilizer, gathered 17,000 names on petitions for the same causes, which include Change To Win’s challenge to Wal-Mart’s executive pay.  It sent the petitions to two big mutual funds, Vanguard and Fidelity, that hold Wal-Mart stock.

The moms contrast their pay with the hordes of cash Walton reaps.  They also make the point that they’re the workers who make Wal-Mart go, that they want to see the company do better, and that the way to achieve that is to pay them a decent living wage of $25,000 yearly, with better benefits, for a full 40-hour predictable workweek.

“Our goal is to make sure that when people are working hard, they should be able to provide for their families,” said Ellen Bravo, longtime leader of the women’s movement’s 9to5.  “Many policies in the workplace, including at Wal-Mart, are set in the old era” of working dads and stay-at-home moms, added Bravo, now executive director of Family Values At Work.

“Large profitable companies like Wal-Mart are at the center of the struggle of working families,” Bravo told a May 29 telephone press conference with members of the Wal-Mart Moms.  At the retailer, the workers “are creating $16 billion in profits and $144 billion in wealth” for the Walton family, the firm’s owners, “while the Wal-Mart moms earn less than $25,000 a year.”