A historic victory for all workers
By Kristen Beifus, UFCW 21 Community Organizer and PSARA Executive Board member
On April 1st, Walmart associates around the country will start earning a minimum of $9/hr. In some states that means an increase of $1.75 per hour, as we know the federal minimum wage is only $7.25/hr. Then early in 2016, minimum wage at Walmart will go up to $10/hr, essentially the federal minimum wage that President Obama is proposing. That is not all. Walmart also announced that workers can use their sick days on their first day sick, have more predictable schedules, and have expanded opportunities for trainings and career opportunities at Walmart.
Did the world’s largest employer suddenly realize that its business model predicated on suppressing wages and making products as cheap as possible was impoverishing its workers? Did they finally notice that gross understaffing, leading to empty shelves and unhappy customers, was the cause of their falling profits? Or did the Walton Family, which has more wealth than almost half of the people in the U.S. combined, decide that they just didn’t need any more?
We have one word for you: OURWalmart! In Washington State Patricia Scott is a fearless OURWalmart leader in Federal Way, who has put herself and her job on the line countless times to advocate for change.
Here what she has to say about Walmart’s announcement: “In the 16 years I have worked at Walmart, I participated and led many actions and took part in numerous strikes to help raise pay for all Walmart associates. It is because of our dedication to fairness and respect in the workplace that Walmart has now promised to raise the wages for its lowest-paid workers.
This is good news; however, we are cautious because Walmart has made promises in the past and then not kept their word. We hope this time is different. Time will tell. “This win did not directly affect me, because after 16 years, I make just over $15. However, I believe that this is just the beginning and that we will win pay increases for everyone at Walmart.”
Since the announcement, Pat has been explaining to her colleagues what the announcement means for them in real terms, and in the process she has recruited even more members to OURWalmart.
“Every day, I work with my colleagues to stand up for themselves and their families. Fear has kept many of them quiet, but I tell everyone what my parents taught me: #1. If you don’t stand up for yourself, who is going to? and #2. “Fear” is just a 4-letter word, standing for False Evidence Appearing Real.
“We are fired up and ready to fight for a better tomorrow. I plan on retiring in about four years, and I want all associates to be strong enough to keep fighting for what is right and what they need, KNOWING they will NOT get retaliated against. We already showed that by standing up for ourselves, we can win, so there is no way we are sitting down until Walmart is a good place to work for all workers.”
Celebrate this victory, and roll up your sleeves to stand with Pat and OurWalmart to make sure that this is only the beginning!