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Walmart workers speak out at annual meeting: ‘I cannot survive like this’

Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, holds its annual meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Friday. The giant event attracts workers and shareholders from around the world and is usually a celebration of the company’s unique corporate culture. About 14,000 people are expected at the Bud Walton arena to hear the company’s executives speak. They can also expect to surprised by guest appearances from celebrities such as Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake that show the retailer’s pulling power. It’s also a chance to see the Waltons, Walmart’s founding family and some of the richest people on the planet.

But this year’s meeting may be less adulatory.

The company is facing pressure at home after a series of strikes and protests over pay and conditions. Walmart’s sourcing from factories with poor safety records is also under fire. Lobby group Making Change at Walmart raised over $9,000 on the crowdsourcing site Indiegogo to bring to the meeting Kalpona Akter, a former child textile laborer from Bangladesh. She is being accompanied by Sumi Abedin, a survivor of the deadly fire that killed at least 112 garment workers at the Tazreen Fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka last year.

Akter will call on Walmart to sign a legally binding agreement to improve working conditions in her country’s textile factories that many of the company’s rivals have signed following a building collapse in April that left over 1,127 dead.

Striking workers from union-supported group Our Walmart are also protesting against pay and conditions outside the event. They will be joined by workers from Walmart’s warehouse supply chain, which has been hit by allegations of poor conditions, wage theft, retaliation against workers who complain and a series of strikes.

Here are three of the protesters hoping to make an impact on Walmart at this year’s meeting.

Kalpona Akter, 36, sweatshop critic and ex-child garment worker

Bangladesh’s textile workers work 11 to 14 hours a day, six, sometimes seven, days a week for $37 a month, says Akter. Conditions are dangerous. A total of 1,239 workers were killed in the recent building collapse outside Dhaka and a factory fire last year, and another 450 were reported ill this week, some hospitalized, after drinking unsafe water at another factory. “Whenever workers try to organise, they are threatened, beaten,” said Akter.

Workers have little choice but to put up with the conditions, she said. “There is truly no alternative,” said Akter. “This is the biggest industry we have.”

She believes it is up to retailers to change conditions but Walmart and Gap are resisting signing a global accord that some of its rivals have signed which promises binding, verifiable safety standards for Bangladesh factories. “This is happening because of a pattern of denial by these giant retailers like Walmart,” she said. “There really will not be any change until they take responsibility,” she said.

Barbara Collins, 37, striking Walmart employee

Collins has worked for Walmart in Placerville, California for almost eight years, and is a full-time associate. “I was told when I first got hired that I had joined a family. A family that would give me the chance to provide, a family that would respect me and value my work. Unfortunately I soon discovered that was not the case,” she said. “Despite my hard work I soon discovered that Walmart was a place that liked to say one thing and do another.”

She said irregular hours left her unable to pay for healthcare for her family. One week she could work eight hours, the next 40. “Healthcare costs do not change, but my pay and hours do,” she said. She said the instability left her unable to keep up with her premiums. “We need public assistance to survive. Living in low-income housing, relying on food stamps, not being able to afford healthcare, is not my definition of providing a good job,” she said.

(more at link)

by Anonymousreply 2907/06/2013

All American companies are going this way.

The Corporations rule the USA, not the people.

by Anonymousreply 106/08/2013

Walmart is a government leech.

by Anonymousreply 206/08/2013

What people don't understand is that corporations have always abused their workers. From the Lattimer Strikes to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, people have died at the hands of corporations. So they formed unions, and instead of adapting to new regulations, corporations like Wal Mart are using the exact same methods of slavery and peonage they used in America in 1899, but now in different countries with different colored anonymous people that we just can't care about.

You can fight a factory, or a CEO, or a corporation, but you cannot and will not ever destroy human greed.

by Anonymousreply 306/08/2013

Why only pick on WM.

Nike and others are just as bad.

by Anonymousreply 406/08/2013

Well, this thread's focus is about Wal Mart, r4.

by Anonymousreply 506/08/2013

lovely Bed Bath & Beyond will be taking hours away from their full timers. Dropping them down to thirty hours a week. Their part-timers will make between five and ten hours a=week.

by Anonymousreply 606/08/2013

The focus is always on WM.

More liberal corporations, who are just as guilty, don't get much said about them at all.

by Anonymousreply 706/08/2013

EVERY corporation in the US is like this. Most of them are able to keep their "corporate image" under tight control.

The better the "image", the tighter control the corporation has over the media and their unhappy workers.

by Anonymousreply 806/08/2013

R7, there is a reason the focus on Walmart. They are the largest private employer in the world. What they do has a huge impact everywhere.

by Anonymousreply 906/08/2013


by Anonymousreply 1006/08/2013

Ellen, go get a manicure.

Good for Making Change at Walmart. If they can get Walmart to treat its employees more reasonably, then other companies can be forced to follow suit.

by Anonymousreply 1106/08/2013

The vast majority of American workers will be making minimum wage within the next 10 years,

by Anonymousreply 1206/08/2013

I'm guessing if everyone who is progressive, liberal, pro-labor were to stop shopping at Wal Mart - then Wal Mart would change its ways.

Just like if everyone who is progressive, liberal, pro-labor stopped buying iPhones and iPads - Apple would change its ways.

by Anonymousreply 1306/08/2013

R12 is correct.

Mississippi will be America's Bangledesh in 2025.

We are all expendable to them.

by Anonymousreply 1406/08/2013

The problem is, r13 is that the entire board and even the Walmart heirs except for a few are all big Democrat supporters, there's several gays and lesbians on the BoD there....& YET no change.

by Anonymousreply 1506/08/2013

R15 - I didn't say put progressives or Democrats on their board.

I said stop shopping at WalMart.

by Anonymousreply 1606/14/2013

democrats always supported exploitation and abuse,they just have a better PR personnel than repubs

by Anonymousreply 1706/20/2013

Stop whining, and start shooting. These fuckers respect fear. Blow up a few Wal-Marts and they might pay attention.

by Anonymousreply 1806/20/2013

I remember a documentary on Walmart - they used to (maybe still do) take out life insurance polices on their employees, so that if they die - Walmart gets paid. I think this particular one was an employee who got cancer, had no health insurance, continued to work because he had to, died and the late wife found out that walmart got some 50K on a life insurance policy they took out on him and offered none of it or any financial support to his surviving wife.

here is what is happening - they are forcing the divide between rich and poor in the us. Outsourcing jobs to cheap labor who will in time revolt and demand more money. Then when we have created a huge gap between the have and have nots bring labor back to the us and pay them LESS than we would pay outsourced third world countries all the while they can say SEE MADE IN THE USA! Why do you think they want Health care reform repealed? It ruins the plan if they have to play for health care.

by Anonymousreply 1906/20/2013

R19 If what you are saying is true about the life insurance policy, then there needs to be another level of Hell for Walmart executives.

by Anonymousreply 2006/20/2013

R19 is right however this is a very common practice and not limited to Walmart at all. This has been going on for decades.

by Anonymousreply 2106/20/2013

There are companies that do it right. Costco for one. The gap between what the ceo makes and it's lowest paid worker is closer than any other company. They offer benefits to all their employees, pay a fair wage, and decent hours and vacation time....The average costco worker makes 38K at a time when big box stores are cutting wages, costco refused and cared more about it's worker than it's bottom line. The result? Memberships are rising, an 8% growth rate and 5% same store sales growth. While retailers sink, costco grows. You get what you pay for.

by Anonymousreply 2207/05/2013

Apparently, no one who reads is aware of the word 'fewer' or how to use it in a sentence.

by Anonymousreply 2307/05/2013

Is the 6-letter word in the White House trying to do anything about this??

by Anonymousreply 2407/05/2013

I always remember my stockbroker saying 10 years ago that when I retire, there will really only be the rich and the poor........ And you don't want to be in the poor group.

It is exactly what I see happening. He was so correct.

by Anonymousreply 2507/05/2013

R22 Yes Costco is fucking awesome. Is walmart the operating the same internationally or is this problem mostly in the US? I am from Canada and during my college days I was working at Superstore (supermarket chain that is similar to walmart) I think all the the cashiers were part-timers so I think most gets like 20-30 hours a week. I only worked like 16 hours a week because of school and earned like a dollar above minimum wage. I did get benefits like dental so I thought it was alright.

by Anonymousreply 2607/05/2013

What do you expect the "6-letter word to do", r24?

If you're referring to the president, he has little power to unilaterally do anything. He's not a king who can just make everything better.

by Anonymousreply 2707/06/2013

Interesting article on how ONE walmart could cost taxpayers $900K per year because we subsidize their underpaid wage slaves through food stamps and medicaid.

by Anonymousreply 2807/06/2013

I started reading Sam walmart's autobiography and couldn't get past 3 chapters. The guy tried to have this aw shucks attitude but it was clear he was a ruthless businessman early on. Very repulsive. Also anytime that I went into Walmart I noticed the employees seemed like their spirit had been sucked out of them and they never knew where anything was.

by Anonymousreply 2907/06/2013
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