‘Wal-Mart Moms’ Descend on Retailer’s Annual Meeting, Following Walkouts

BENTONVILLE, Ark. –Fed up with low wages, part-time hours, lousy benefits and lack of respect on the job, hundreds of “Wal-Mart Moms” descended on the monster retailer’s annual meeting June 5 in Bentonville, Ark.  That came after a day of Wal-Mart worker walkouts from stores nationwide.  Another protest, led by the AFL-CIO, was in D.C., on June 6.
The workers’ demands include a living wage of $25,000 yearly, full-time and predictable schedules, better benefits and no retaliation against workers who speak up for their rights.  The Wal-Mart Moms are part of Our Wal-Mart, an employee organization trying to change the monster retailer from within, through public pressure.
Unions nationwide support their demands, as does former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.  Wal-Mart “says it can’t afford to give its workers a raise or better hours and working conditions.  Baloney.  Wal-Mart is America’s biggest retailer.  Its policies are pulling every other major retailer into the same race to the bottom.  If Wal-Mart halted the race, the race would stop,” Reich said.
Whether Wal-Mart listened is another matter.  Ruling Waltons hold controlling shares, although Our Wal-Mart, unions, progressive groups and investment advisors called on mutual funds with large blocs of Wal-Mart shares to vote against company policies – and leaders.
For the workers, the case is more basic.  They want decent pay and respect on the job.
“I have bills to pay.  I just don’t make enough money,” Charmaine Thomas-Givens, an 8-year Wal-Mart worker in Chicago told one group of workers who walked out on June 4. “We do not have enough trained associates in our stores to keep our shelves stocked.  Backrooms are piling up because there aren’t enough people to get things on the floor. So we struggle to deliver the customer service we pride ourselves on.
“Our company must invest more in associates and give them the respect they deserve, so we can be even more productive, which benefits us as associates and shareholders.  We need a leader at the top who thinks only of what is best for our company, its associates and all shareholders,” she told the stockholders meeting the next day.
Cynthia Brown-Elliott of Dayton, Ohio, reminded listeners that Wal-Mart lectures its workers to “save money and live better.”  She responded: “How can you save money if you’re not making enough money?  How can you live better if you’re not paid enough?”
One group of Wal-Mart Moms picketed Rob Walton’s home in Phoenix on June 4 before flying on to Bentonville.  Walton is the family scion and leader. Phoenix picketer Benet Homes, a single mother from Chicago, told Our Wal-Mart that  “I came to Phoenix to tell Rob Walton what it’s like being a working mom at Wal-Mart.  While his family is the richest in the world, my son and I depend on family and public assistance to keep our heads above water.  Wal-Mart moms like me are striking across the country to protest the company’s illegal firing of moms like Barbara Collins who spoke out for better jobs for associates.