Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Two of the 'Walmart 60' Picket Salinas Walmart Store

Two members of the 'Walmart 60' recently picketed the Salinas Walmart store. They and their supporters continue to ask that the members of Wallmart's Board of Directors reinstate the more than 60 workers, known as the Walmart 60, who were fired after protesting working conditions at the retail giant. They want the public to know that the vast majority of Walmart workers aren't paid enough to afford basic health care, to pay for rent and utilities, or to keep food on the table, yet the Walton family who controls the retail chain has more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans combined. There have been a number of recent events protesting working conditions at Walmarts in the greater Bay Area, and they have all been leading up to a large march in San Francisco on September 5 as part of a national day of action in support of the striking workers who lost their jobs.

Walmart's poor treatment of its Associates was put into context when it was revealed in a recent study that each Walmart store costs taxpayers nearly $1 million in government subsidies for programs such as food stamps and other public assistance that struggling workers rely on to survive.

The protest at the Salinas Walmart took place on August 17, the same day Walmart Board Chair and Walton heir Rob Walton planned to race two of his race cars, worth more than $16 million dollars, at the annual Monterey Motorsports Reunion at nearby Laguna Seca Raceway.

The two members of the Walmart 60 in attendance at the Salinas store, Dominick Ware and Raymond Bravo, both said they thought they were fired in retaliation for speaking out publicly against business practices at the stores they worked at. They are both members of OUR Walmart, an employee lead organization that is working to insure that every Walmart Associate is respected.

Raymond Bravo was a Walmart Associate at the Hilltop Mall store in Richmond for two years until he was fired for speaking out against Walmart's unfair labor practices, he said. Bravo lost his job on June 27 after picketing Walmart between May 29 and June 8 of this year. Bravo believes he lost his job due to retaliation because the day they said he was fired was one of the days he was on strike.

Bravo said he wants his job back. 

"I want Walmart to end its illegal retaliation against workers who speak out and everybody that Walmart fired for going on strike," he added

Dominick Ware worked at the Walmart in San Leandro and said he was picketing in Salinas to inform people of what is going on behind the scenes for workers.

"I'm here today in Salinas to tell the shoppers and everybody out here in Salinas that Rob Walton of Walmart is really supplying his 16 million dollar race car that he is doing this weekend with taxpayers money," Ware said.

"We have to deal with disrespect on the job as well as not being treated fairly with our scheduling," Ware also said, adding, "if you work here you have no family time."

"You work here for a year, you get a 40 cent raise, while Rob Walton makes billions, it makes no sense, and they are not putting their money into the company, they are putting it into their pockets. He is putting it into these race cars. They are puting it into other things, but not back into the people or the communities that is making them all of this money."

Ware said he was one of the first Walmart workers to go on strike on Black Friday of 2012.

He lost his job after the prolonged strike of this year. Ware said he picketed the home office of Walmart, among other places, and after two weeks of protesting he returned to work after being promised there would be no retaliation against him.

Ware says he had been back at work for a whole month when then they eventually fired him.

"They said that Walmart didn't respect the strike, they said it was just no-call no-show. Right now I have to fight that. I'm going through the National Labor Board trying to get my job back."

According to the organization Making Change at Walmart, $15,500 is the average annual salary of a Walmart Sales Associate (based on an IBIS World figure), $8.81 is the average hourly wage, and 46¢ is the additional cost per shopping trip for a Walmart customer if the company offered a minimum wage of $12 an hour.

With earnings of $408.2 billion in 2010, Walmart’s revenue earned the company the number one spot on Fortune's 100 list.

Walmart Sales Associates began organizing in June of 2011. At that time they traveled from across the United States to the Walmart Home Office in Bentonville, Ark., and presented a Declaration of Respect to Walmart executive management. The Declaration calls on Walmart to publicly commit to:

- Listen to us, the Associates
- Have respect for the individual
- Recognize freedom of association and freedom of speech
- Pay a minimum of $13/hour and make full-time jobs available for Associates who want them
- Create dependable, predictable work schedules
- Provide affordable healthcare
- Provide every Associate with a policy manual, ensure equal enforcement of policy and no discrimination, and give every Associate equal opportunity to succeed and advance in his or her career
- Provide wages and benefits that ensure that no Associate has to rely on government assistance.

Raymond Bravo

Dominick Ware

Salinas City Council Member Tony Barrera (on the right)

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