Less than a week after Walmart workers in Los Angeles went on strike and a day after Seattle workers at the retail giant walked off the job, Walmart employees at three locations in Chicago staged a strike of their own.
Employees from stores in Lakeview, Evergreen Park and Chatham staged walkouts in the early afternoon Wednesday and later descended on the South Side Chatham location for a rally. The series of strikes are part of a larger campaign by OUR Walmart, which is tied to the United Food & Commercial Workers Union. The group is calling for a nationwide protest against Walmart on Black Friday and has built a website to help organize workers and community supporters. The Nation reports that more than 400 Walmart workers walked off the job in a similar protest against the company last year.
According to a press release from Stand Up Chicago, another organization affiliated with the strikes, the workers called on Walmart to offer more full-time positions, end retaliation against workers attempting to organize and provide a minimum salary of $25,000 a year. The organization said as many as 825,000 Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 per year, a figure based on a presentation given by Walmart US CEO Bill Simon that revealed some 475,000 workers make more than that amount.
While Walmart maintains it does not take retaliatory action against workers for striking, the company fired 20 workers and disciplined another 50 in June for participating in a work stoppage and a protest at its shareholder meeting. Charmaine Givens-Thomas, a 60 year-old Walmart employee in Evergreen Park, traveled to the shareholder meeting in the spring. Prior to the trip, which OUR Walmart dubbed “The Ride For Respect,” Givens-Thomas wrote the following on the group's website, “When our hours are decreased, we can’t make it without borrowing money from each other. It isn’t right when a full time associate has to go an entire day without eating because they don’t have the money to buy food.” Earlier this month, Givens-Thomas, who has worked at Walmart for eight years, started an online petition demanding President Obama meet with Walmart strikers. The petition has garnered more than 50,000 signatures.
Walmart representatives have tried to downplay the effectiveness of the strikes. In an interview with Salon, Wal-Mart spokesperson Brooke Buchanan said the company is “really focused on serving our customers, and giving our customers and our associates the best holiday ever.” When asked what to expect of the strike in Seattle prior to the action, an unnamed spokesperson told ThinkProgress “if it’s anything like what we saw in LA, there will be very few associates participating.” Spokesperson Kory Lundberg said he expected the Chicago protests would have little effect on the company, according to The Huffington Post.
Still, at least 100 people turned up to the location in Chatham for the late afternoon rally. The striking workers delivered a letter to the store and a few of the Wakmart employees gave speeches outside of the store.
“I love my job," said employee Anna Pritchard according to a Tweet from Stand Up Chicago. “I love to work. I thought I would be treated fairly, but I don't see it at all.”
Images: Making Change at Walmart