When Walmart announced they could not wait until midnight Thanksgiving to start selling flat screens and tablets; that Black Friday would start Thanksgiving Day at 8 p.m., I thought “what greed.” The largest private employer in America, I knew Walmart was very profitable. They make $15 billion a year in profit. However, I did not know much about the long history of worker abuse at Walmart.
When I received the email from 9to5 Executive Director Linda Meric encouraging us to stand with Walmart workers on Black Friday, I knew it was time to take a deeper look.
As a member of 9to5 I know 9to5 is always on the side of fairness, decency, family values, and respect for women and workers. The more I researched and talked to current and former Walmart workers the more concerned I became. I discovered a pattern of worker intimidation that borders on terrorism. Low wages, part-time irregular hours, restricted access to healthcare, settling lawsuits for not paying overtime, and strong retaliation if workers dare complain.
Walmart agreed to pay $4.8 M in May of this year for allegedly violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay employees overtime. Bobby Rankin, an former Walmart employee told me “I worked 98 hours in a two-week period during the holiday season last year at Walmart and was paid for 30 hours. Walmart policy states supervisors have to enter overtime into the system each day an employee works over. My supervisor called me into work but never entered the time into the system and I never got paid.”
I was proud to stand with 9to5, the courageous Walmart workers, community organizations, labor, and faith based groups joining the nationwide protest against Walmart employment policies.