February, 2015

After Wage Increase, Walmart Must Now Transform Its Business Model

The Retail Giant Should Take Bolder Action to Improve the Quality of Jobs at Its Stores, the Walmart-Free NYC Coalition Said Today

For Immediate Release: February 23, 2015

Media Contact: Dan Morris. 917.952.8920.

New York, NY – Leaders of Walmart-Free NYC, a growing coalition of workers, unions, clergy, and community organizations, today addressed the news that Walmart will raise the starting wage for 500,000 of its employees to $10 per hour.

They congratulated Walmart workers on a significant victory, but said the company must do more to transform its business model and respond to workers’ calls for $15 an hour, full-time work and respect on the job.

“We congratulate the workers and leaders of OUR Walmart on a successful effort to pressure this powerful company to raise the starting hourly wage. Make no mistake: Walmart fought calls for higher pay every step of the way. But the tireless efforts of Walmart workers and their supporters forced the retail giant to do what is right and long overdue. For years, Walmart has paid the lowest-possible wages, and only now is it raising its starting wage to a level consistent with New York’s minimum wage. While this is a significant victory for Walmart workers, they deserve much more. They deserve at least $15 an hour, reliable full-time hours, fair scheduling, concrete opportunities for career advancement, and the chance to speak out without fear of retaliation,” said Audrey Sasson, Director of Walmart-Free NYC.

“Walmart is the largest private employer in the world and one of the most profitable business in America. But it has an alarming record of illegally retaliating against workers, opposing worker organizing, and lowering job standards in the retail industry. After this wage increase, Walmart should take bolder action to change the worst aspects of its business model and to set a much better example for employers nationally. Walmart should take the high road instead of the low road. All of our communities deserve better and New York City continues to be better off without Walmart,” said Christina Hajagos-Clausen, UFCW Region 1 Director.

Walmart has not opened any stores in New York City, but Walmart’s low-wages, erratic part-time scheduling, and disrespect for workers are evident in many nonunion retail and service jobs across the five boroughs, according to a recent report, Low-Wage Rage: How Walmart and the Walton Family Harm New York City’s Workforce.

That’s because Walmart, as the nation’s largest private employer, has more power over the retail industry than any other company, and many businesses have chosen to adopt its low-road business model in order to compete. If Walmart stores ever entered New York City, the company would have an even more disastrous effect here, destroying many local jobs, depressing wages, and killing off small businesses, according to a widely-discussed report, The Walmartization of New York City.

“Walmart workers and their allies have shown that when they stand together real change is possible. But make no mistake about it; this does not mean that Walmart is a fundamentally different company. Raising hourly wages is a good first step, but for a company that has an abysmal track record on worker rights, women’s rights and the environment more needs to be done to transform this company into a responsible corporate player,” said Dave Mertz, NYC Director of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW.

“Courageous Walmart workers have shown that, by standing up for real change, they can challenge a powerful company and win. Walmart must now build on this wage increase and implement deeper changes in how it does business and treats its workers. We are committed to keeping up the fight with Walmart workers, low-wage workers, and everyday New Yorkers who believe in decent pay and fairness on the job, and want to change the worst aspects of Walmart’s business model, said Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN.

“Walmart’s announcement of a higher starting wage confirms the unmatchable power workers hold when they band together and stand for respect from their employer. Walmart workers have been relentless, fighting for decades for respect and better working conditions. However, we have heard many empty promises from Walmart, and today, there are real questions about whether the company is really committed to improving jobs or simply seeking to quiet the concerns of OUR Walmart members, investors, shoppers and taxpayers. We don’t know what this means for our hours – as more and more workers report that they are not getting the hours they want and need. The truth is that this raise, especially without any guarantee of hours, is a promise that falls short of what we need to feed our families,” said UFCW Local 1500 President Bruce W. Both.

“By standing together, Walmart workers won raises that will make a significant difference in their lives. We know this victory wouldn’t have happened without the dedication of workers across the country fighting for a better life for themselves and their families. While this wage increase is a step forward, it’s still not enough. Walmart has a deeply disturbing history of discriminating against many of its workers, including African-Americans and women, and supporting right-wing causes and campaigns. We will continue to fight to ensure that all Walmart workers are treated with respect and dignity, and that Walmart raises standards for how retailers do business,” said Kira Shepherd, Executive Director of The Black Institute.

 

UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Walmart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Walmart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Walmart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards.  UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.

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