Pico Rivera, CA. Wal-Mart Calls Workers' Strike a 'Rally'
On October 4, 2012, workers at a Wal-Mart store in Pico Rivera, California, and eight other stores in the Los Angeles area, walked off the job in protest of store management's retaliation against workers who complained about working conditions at their store.
According to Venanzi Luna, a Wal-Mart worker, retail workers at Wal-Mart have been coming together for more than a year to call for change at Wal-Mart. "Through our worker-led Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart, workers like myself have been calling on the company to address issues with scheduling, benefits, wages and above all, respect in the workplace," Luna wrote.
"But instead of being responsive, Wal-Mart has lashed out at us for speaking up. The company is trying to silence and intimidate us through unfair disciplinary actions, cut backs in hours and even firings. We're on strike to protest these illegal attempts to silence us," Luna said. "Even though I'm working hard to juggle my job, a tight budget and caring for my sick father, I know that I have to do something to stop Wal-Mart from bullying us when we practice our freedom of speech. We all know how Wal-Mart has dealt with these issues in the past. Many of us are taking a huge risk by going on strike."
Another worker, Manuela Rosales, who sells cellphones at the Pico Rivera Wal-Mart, told the New York Times, "when we speak out, they cut my hours in retaliation and they have me pull pallets, which is very hard work. I'm a single mom and I can't afford them cutting my hours." Rosales said that about a third of the workers at her store walked out in protest.
Wal-Mart's reaction was predictable. A spokesman for the retailer told the Times that the workers' action was not really a strike at all. "You can count on less than one hand the number of associates that we are aware of who left their post to participate in the rally," the Wal-Mart spokesman said. "That's very few when you consider the more than 12,000 people we employ in Los Angeles County." The retailer's spokesman referred to the strike as the "latest publicity stunt" of the United Food and Commercial Worker's Union (UFCW).
As noted this past week by Sprawl-Busters, the Pico Rivera strike comes on the heels of two similar actions at Wal-Mart wearhouses in Southern California and Illinois.
What you can do: Activists have announced a nationwide "day of action" on October 10th, in support of striking workers.
There will be rallies, protests and other demonstrations across the country. An online petition asks supporters to urge Wal-Mart "to stop its unlawful attempts to silence and intimidate workers for practicing their right to free speech... The rights we hold dear in this country were bought by groups of people standing up for what's right. Wal-Mart's treatment of its workers is bad for all Americans, and we stand with you in the fight for a more prosperous and just economy. Our country works best when everyone shares in its prosperity, not when too much of the money is concentrated in too few hands. Thank you for standing up and demanding fair treatment and an end illegal retaliation."
To sign the petition in support of OUR Wal-Mart, go to: http://corporateactionnetwork.org/petitions/stand-with-walmart-workers-fighting-for-their-rights