Workers Strike in 20 Cities as Study Finds Walmart Can Pay More

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Nationwide strikes target Walmart ahead of shareholders meeting, calling for a $25,000 annual salary as a new Demos report finds Walmart can afford to do so without raising prices

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Walmart workers have launched a series of strikes in 20 cities across the country to demand a salary of $25,000 a year in a leadup to the company’s annual shareholder meeting Friday.

The action comes on the heels of a scathing new report by the progressive think tank Demos that found women are disproportionately impacted by the company’s pay scale and that Walmart could pay its workers $25,000 without charging customers more.

We contacted Walmart for a response, and they provided us with this statement from spokesperson Kory Lundberg.

KORY LUNDBERG, WALMART SPOKESPERSON: Each year, we see the same union groups set up these PR stunts timed to our shareholder’s claims that make preposterous claims about participation. About 100 of our 1.3 million associates are participating, which is less than last year. And that’s because our associates understand–they know they have a good job. It’s also important to note that the associates who are part of this front group, they still work at Walmart because they understand their Walmart job is a good job.

Walmart provides associates with more opportunity for career growth than other companies in America. We offer a 401(k) program with a 6 percent company match, health benefits, educational opportunities, even bonuses based on the performance of their store.

NOOR: Strikes were held in cities like Chicago, Illinois; Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In California, actions are taking place in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and across the Bay area. The Demos report found that women who make an average hourly wage of $10.58 are disproportionately represented in low-wage retail positions and face unstable and inconsistent work hours, even with full-time positions. The study found that a wage floor of $25,000 per year at major retailers would amount to a 27 percent pay raise and, quote, “would lift hundreds of thousands of women and their family members out of poverty, and hundreds of thousands more would emerge from near-poverty.” With 7.8 million women predicted to join the industry over the next decade, the wage increase would add $17.73 per year to the average household shopping bill, or just $0.17 per shopping trip. They said this wage increase is afforbable for large retailers, representing only 1 percent of total annual retail sales. And while large retailers spent $26.3 billion on stock purchases in 2013, the cost of raising the minimum wage would only cost them $21.5 billion.

A Walmart spokesperson responded to the Demos report by telling us, “It looks like Demos has released yet another study based on furthering their agenda rather than on facts and hard data.”

The following video was produced by OUR Walmart Miami and shows demonstrating workers from a North Miami Walmart speaking out against what they say was illegal retaliation against workers who spoke out against low wages and went on strike.

UNIDENTIFIED: [incompr.] showing that Walmart, no matter if they do fire me or terminate me or whatever, I’m still going to stand up and [believing in the rights?] of all [incompr.] Walmart’s employee. I believe that we at Walmart deserve better wages, better hours, better scheduling, and mostly respect.

I got fired for retaliating, going on strike on the June strike we had.

NOOR: On Friday, workers are planning actions at the annual shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, to further calls that CEO Doug McMillon pay its workers higher wages.

Reporting for The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

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