Walmart protest


Credit: Courtesy of OURWalmart

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–When Walmart, holds its on
June 6
, many of its female workers are planning to crash the event at the mega retailer’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters.

On May 30, the so-called Walmart Moms began a week of strikes in 20 cities leading up to the annual meeting. On Wednesday they and other workers are calling for a national strike and on Friday some are planning to converge on Arkansas.

On Twitter, supporters who include trade unions are spreading support and information about the stories of women who work at Walmart and their demands for better work conditions using the hashtags #walmartmoms, #walmartstrikers and #OURWalmart.

The women are demanding more full-time jobs paying at least $25,000 a year; conditions they say will allow breadwinning parents to provide for their families.

The company pays 825,000 workers, around two-thirds of its workforce, less than $25,000 a year, the Guardian reports.

The annual income target of $25,000 is at the heart of a study about female retail workers released June 2 by the New York-based progressive research organization Demos.

Closing Retail Wage Gap

In it, Demos Senior Policy Analyst Amy Traub finds that if the nation’s largest retailers raised wages to the equivalent of $25,000 a year for full-time work, the wage gap in retail–where women now earn 72 cents for every dollar earned by a man–would narrow significantly even if both men and women got the same raise. The retail sector overall employs 7.2 million women and 1.3 million of them are in poverty or on the threshold, says Traub.

Traub also finds that gross domestic product, a measure of all the goods and services sold in the country, would grow an estimated $6.9 to $8.9 billion solely from women’s portion of the raise, or $12.1 to $15.7 billion from both women and men, leading to the creation of 105,000 to 136,000 new jobs.

If retail companies raised wages to $25,000 a year for full-time retail employees, it would cost consumers 15 cents more per shopping trip or $17.73 annually, according to Traub’s analysis.

Traub notes that many retail employers use “just-in-time” software to set employees’ schedules according to when they are most needed, which gives workers fewer work hours and less notice. Unpredictable work schedules make it difficult for women to make time for other important responsibilities, such as going to school, arranging for childcare and taking care of their families.

Protection from Retaliation

Walmart demonstrators are also seeking protection from retaliation by workers “speaking out for a better future for their families.” The Guardian reports that earlier this year, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Walmart for illegally retaliating against 60 workers who had engaged in legally protected strikes or protests.

As the largest employer of women, Walmart is a conspicuous example of the employment problems women suffer in the retail sector.

In a May 29 article for , Sarah Jaffe summarizes the evolution of female workers at Walmart, many of whom in the early days of the company worked part-time to supplement the income of husbands who worked full-time for the company. “Now, though,” Jaffe writes, “the company is not only the nation’s largest employer of women but its largest private employer, period. That means a whole lot more people are depending on those low-wage jobs to support their families.”

Walmart and many other retailers have been hit by worker demonstrations that have drawn attention to the low incomes of full-time workers who earn so little they must depend on food drives for Thanksgiving turkeys and public assistance for everyday costs.

In March, after an advocacy group filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Walmart revised its pregnancy policy saying that such workers may be afforded work that is less physically demanding if their regular assignments are causing them distress.

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