Once again, Walmart is trying to terrorize its workers into silence.
Earlier this month, hundreds of Walmart associates went on strike and travelled to Walmart's shareholders' meeting to protest Walmart’s brutal campaign of intimidation against workers who have demanded decent conditions, fair pay, and respect at work. Walmart's bosses have insisted that they're not trying to intimidate workers and that any associate can bring their concerns to management at any time. But in the weeks after the strike, Walmart fired 11 key leaders of the strikes.
As Walmart's sales and favorability ratings in opinion polls plummet, it's clear that decades of unethical behavior are catching up with the world's largest retailer. But instead of changing its ways, the company is trying to silence its critics. Walmart thinks that if it can scare its workers away from joining OUR Walmart, the workers' association, the pressure to improve working conditions will go away. Now consumers like us need to show Walmart that this thuggish behavior is unnacceptable.
Since their historic strike last Black Friday, Walmart workers have done an amazing job raising awareness about Walmart's exploitative policies, and their consequences for all of us. They even provoked Congress to release a report showing that each Walmart superstore costs taxpayers around a million dollars each year, because workers are so poorly paid that they need to rely on Medicaid, food stamps, and other public assistance. But Walmart has responded to workers' protest with over 150 documented instances of intimidation and retaliation.
Walmart says the workers were fired for violating its attendance policy. That's a ridiculous: the workers were on strike, and it's totally illegal to fire workers for striking. But with the National Labor Relations Board hamstrung by business interests in Congress, it can take a long, long time for labor law to actually be enforced. But we don't have to wait: let's remind Walmart that it's not about to improve its image by breaking the law and bullying workers.
This year, Walmart has lurched from one PR disaster to another. Walmart’s brand has been hammered by worker protests, the disasters in Bangladesh, a massive bribery scandal in Mexico. Its sales have plummeted in the last quarter, and opinion polls show Walmart’s favorability ratings key demographics that the company is courting plummeted 50 percent in 2012. Walmart is desperate to win back the public's favor, so we need to send it one clear message: respect your workers, respect our communities, and respect the law.