Wal-Mart Workers Speak Out

Sarah Heinonen has worked at Wal-Mart for more than a decade. She works at the Wal-Mart in Ware, Massachusetts, near Amherst. “I believe that if you don’t like something and you don’t do anything about it, you’re just complaining,” Heinonen told the Valley Post on November 26. “I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t speak out.”

Wal-Mart has fired workers for trying to organize a union, and for criticizing the company. Wal-Mart is owned by the richest family in the world, the Waltons. The company pays among the lowest wages in the world at its factories in China, and at or near minimum wage in the United States. Wal-Mart calls its workers “associates.”

“Numerous associates have told me they want to join OUR Wal-Mart but they’re too scared of what the company will do to them. It’s very frightening,” Sarah Heinonen said. She is a member of the group, which has a web site at www.forRespect.org.

Aubretia Edick lives in Granby, Massachusetts, near Holyoke. She has worked at Wal-Mart for 12 years; she has been on a doctor-ordered leave of absence since she suffered a heart attack in April. She hopes to return to work in January. Edick is also a member of OUR Wal-Mart. “Wal-Mart pays its workers poverty wages,” she told the Valley Post. “We want respect. They treat us like a rug under their feet. I am willing to risk losing my job because I want to stand up for my co-workers.”

Edick was one of about 80 people at a November 23 protest at the Wal-Mart in Hadley, Massachusetts, near Northampton. “The number of workers who belong to OUR Wal-Mart is growing every day,” she said. “It’s in the thousands.”

Alicia Pucci worked at the Wal-Mart in Avon, in eastern Massachusetts, for more than four years. “Last year, they fired me for speaking up about harassment from my manager,” she told the Valley Post. “I hope OUR Wal-Mart will help me get my job back.”

Workers in the U.S. have formed unions and negotiated contracts that required their employers to re-hire workers who were fired for speaking out.

Non-union workers can be fired at any time for no reason. Workers who belong to a union can only be fired for just cause.

In recent decades, the richest Americans have gotten richer, while the middle class has gotten smaller and the ranks of the poor have swelled. Union workers in the U.S. make about 29 percent more money than non-union workers. That’s around $9,300 a year extra for the average worker who joins a union. For Latino workers, the union advantage is about 50 percent; for black workers, approximately 31 percent. This data is from www.bls.gov.

Millions of workers in the U.S. are union members, including workers at Stop and Shop and UPS.

Wal-Mart did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment for this article.

“For a long time, I’ve been really frustrated with the way Wal-Mart treats associates,” local Wal-Mart worker Sarah Heinonen said. “They don’t value us as people. They have drastically cut our hours. It’s not right. I would like to see Wal-Mart provide better health insurance. What we get now covers next to nothing. We’re the backbone of the company. We’re being abused.”


Respect for the Individual

A Wal-Mart worker once commented to me about the retailer's slogan about its 'associates': "Respect for the individual."

The worker told me; "Yes, I believe that slogan. I just never met the individual."

Thanks for a great article

Al Norman, Sprawl-Busters
Twitter: @SprawlBusters

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