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article imageWalmart retail workers' strikes spread to 12 cities, nine states

By JohnThomas Didymus     Oct 10, 2012 in Business
On Thursday, employees at several Walmart stores in Calif. staged a walkout, the first in the company's 50-year history. On Tuesday other workers joined in Dallas, Texas; Miami, Florida; Seattle, Washington; Laurel, Maryland; and several parts of Calif.
Some workers are also planning to demonstrate on Wednesday outside Walmart headquarters in Bentonville Arkansas.
The Huffington Post reports that Dan Schlademan, director of United Food and Commercial Workers' Making Change At Walmart campaign, said Walmart workers also went on strike in parts of Kentucky, Missouri and Minnesota.
According to The Huffington Post, 88 non-unionized workers from 28 stores out of 1.4 million employees (Walmart is the world's largest private employer), participated in Tuesday's walkouts. Salon reports that earlier on Thursday, Walmart store workers in southern California staged a day-long walk out. According to organizers, sixty workers from nine stores officially joined the strike with thirty of them from the same store in Pico Rivera. They had the support of labor leaders, clergy and politicians. Salon reports that the workers returned to work on Friday morning, but international Walmart workers marched carrying flags of their respective countries.
Colby Harris, a Walmart employee who is on strike, said that after three years of working for Walmart, he earns $8.90 an hour. He said that Walmart workers who "stand up" against the company for better pay and working conditions suffer "constant retaliation." Salon reports Harris said: “We have to use somewhat of a buddy system.We loan each other money during non-paycheck weeks just to make it through to the next week when we get paid. Because we don’t have enough money after paying bills to even eat lunch.”
The Huffingon Post points out the irony in the fact that six heirs to the Walmart founder Sam Walton, are worth $89.5 billion, 41.5 percent of lowest income Americans combined.
According to a news release by the United Food and Commercial Workers, Walmart workers say they are protesting company attempts to "silence and retaliate against workers for speaking out for improvements on the job."
However, Walmart spokesperson Dan Fogleman, argued the company provides some of the best jobs in the industry with "good pay, affordable benefits and the chance for advancement.” Commenting on Thursday's walk-out, he said: “There is nothing new, nor historic, about the fact that labor unions want to organize Walmart. Their rally was just the latest publicity stunt by [the United Food & Commercial Workers union] to seek media attention in order to further its political agenda and financial objectives.” He added that Walmart “had a few people go out to join the rally – very few when you consider the more than 12,000 people we employ in LA County... This event was not a factor.”
According to Salon, the strike is being organized by OUR Walmart. The non-unionized organisation of Walmart workers is backed by UFCW.
Salon reports that although OUR Walmart is closely associated with UFCW, it does not identify as a union nor is it agitating for recognition as one.
According to Dorian Warren, a Columbia University political scientist, worker strikes are new to Walmart. Warren said: "The other stuff had been so predictable from Walmart’s point of view. They've always had activists coming to Bentonville. They’ve never had a disruption in their supply chain...There was ‘Before,’ and there was ‘After,’ and we just crossed that line.”
Salon reports that OUR Walmart activists say that Walmart illegally punishes them for "standing up." The activists say they have filed several Unfair Labor Practice charges against Walmart with the National Labor Relations Board. The activists also allege that the company has tried to suppress employee activism through illegal means such as threats and other legal means such as holding mandatory meetings at which company officials rail against OUR Walmart activists.
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