PICO RIVERA (CBSLA.com) — Employees of retail giant Walmart on Wednesday threatened to stage more walkouts if the company refuses to meet their demands for better working conditions.
KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports the move comes less than a week after a small number of workers at local Walmart stores left their posts for the picket line.
Protests that began in Los Angeles on Oct. 4 have spread to at least 11 cities nationwide over the past week, including the Bay Area, Sacramento, Miami, and the Washington DC-area.
Employees are upset over what they say are company practices that include low pay, a lack of benefits, and tough work schedules.
Sally Greenberg with the National Consumers League said employees also fear retaliation if they voice any of their complaints.
“Walmart is punishing employees by cutting their schedules or not giving them a schedule,” Greenberg said during a conference call held by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
Evelyn Cruz, who works at the Pico Rivera store, agrees with Greenberg’s assessment.
“They want to silence as many of us as they can,” she said.
The strikes are likely to add to Walmart’s recent public relations challenges, which include backlash from community members in Chinatown over plans for a 33,000-square-foot facility and a judge’s order blocking construction on a new Walmart location in Burbank.
Even mayoral candidates including Councilman Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Jan Perry, and City Controller Wendy Greuel have pledged to not accept campaign contributions from Walmart in an effort to promote what they call “responsible development.”
But Walmart spokesman Dan Fogelman told KNX 1070 NEWRADIO last week that the company considers these protests nothing more than union publicity stunts.
“If you go out on the Web and look at some of the stories of people that work at some of these unionized grocers in Southern California were telling you last year…you’re gonna see people working part-time jobs for less than ten dollars an hour,” said Fogelman. “Yet they’re complaining about our jobs, when the average full-time associate in California makes $12.82 an hour.”
The strikes are the first-ever that Walmart has faced over alleged retaliation efforts against its workers.