US retail giant Walmart is one of non-unionised companies being hit by “surprise” strikes and walkouts in the USA.
Walmart employees went on strike in Miami, Massachusetts and the California Bay this week. Backed by ‘OUR Walmart’ at least a hundred workers joined the strikes. Some workers walking off the job said they would stay out until June 7th, when Walmart holds its annual shareholder meeting near Bentonville, Arkansas.
“This represents the first time in Walmart history that workers have made the decision to go on prolonged strikes,” said United Food & Commercial Workers Union official Dan Schlademan, a key strategist in the ‘OUR Walmart’ campaign. Schlademan called the workers’ willingness to escalate to prolonged strikes “another example of the depth of leadership and commitment that this organization is building.”
Walmart employs an estimated 1.4 million people in the USA.
One Walmart worker, in Dallas, Colby Harris, who took part in the ‘Walkout’ recently said he had been subjected to surveillance and said his managers changed around his work schedule for no reason and have told him the strikes he’s participating in are illegal. (See The Rise Of alt.labor in the USA)
Last year, there were 37,836 complaints by workers alleging retaliation, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Many Walmart workers who have participated in walkouts this year say that they’ve had their hours cut, their workloads doubled and even been fired.
“When workers become active (protesting against Walmart), there’s a lot of toleration of harassment,” Erin Johansson, the research director for American Rights At Work, a union-backed worker advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. Johansson recently wrote a report documenting 150 cases in which Walmart workers allege that they were punished for participating in labor and wage protests.
“On paper, we all have the right to come together to try and improve standards,” she said. “But it is tough.”