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Walmart encounters worker activism

By Elena Perez, Coordinator, Making Change at Walmart, Puget Sound Coalition & a PSARA member

Walmart intended 2012 to be an epic celebration of its 50th anniversary. It ended up as a year of indictment, with scandals and strikes highlighting five decades of Walmart running roughshod over workers’ rights and community laws and standards.

Several hard-fought years of organizing, education and mobilization led to this year’s historic successes. However, the achievements of 2012 must be seen as part of a long-term movement to fundamentally change the way the world’s largest employer does business. Clearly not an easy task, but one of great importance to the future of the American economy.

Less than two years ago, in 2010, the Making Change at Walmart, Puget Sound coalition was founded, along with a local chapter of the new independent workers’ association called OUR Walmart–Organization United for Respect at Walmart. Our coalition has now grown to over two dozen local organizations, including PSARA, and we are determined to challenge Walmart’s expansion in Puget Sound and support local workers’ demands for respect and a voice in their workplace.

Some of this year’s achievements of the Puget Sound coalition:

OUR Walmart – Puget Sound had a momentous year, including:

Walmart workers still fear retaliation, but this year has demonstrated they can work through fear, act, and emerge stronger. The coalition has grown in number and breadth of leadership. We are better prepared to challenge Walmart’s expansion attempts in our region– especially its new small-footprint tool for penetrating urban centers, the “Neighborhood Market.”

Another notable development is Making Change at Walmart going global. Ongoing investigations of alleged bribery and corruption by Walmart in five different countries, and its role in opposing attempts in Bangladesh to improve fire safety in garment factories highlight the need for us to work together with unions and workers around the world. In October, we launched the UNI Global Union Walmart Alliance, an international network of Walmart workers pledging solidarity to change Walmart.

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