Walmart workers have stepped up their Black Friday protests against the mega retailer with a 15-day fast for a $15 minimum wage and full-time schedules.
Over 1,400 Walmart workers and their allies are participating in the fast, organized by the recently relaunched OUR Walmart campaign. In the run-up to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving shopping frenzy, fasters are consuming a liquids-only diet for one to 15 days to draw attention to what they consider to be low wages and hours provided to Walmart workers.
The fast began last week and will culminate with Black Friday protests on November 27 at Walmart stores nationwide, including in Chicago and other Illinois cities.
"OUR Walmart's message to Walton heirs -- whose wealth has been greater than the bottom 42 percent of all American families combined -- is clear: while Walmart employees can barely put food on the table this Thanksgiving, Walmart continues to thrive as the largest supplier of groceries in the nation, while it lines the pockets of the Walton family with corporate greed," OUR Walmart said in statement. "Anything less than $15 and full-time is not enough for Walmart workers."
Even though Walmart has moved to increase employee wages, new data shows that the company's workers will still cost U.S. taxpayers a pretty penny to make up for the dismal earnings they bring home from working for the retail giant.
Last year, Americans for Tax Fairness issued a report stating that U.S. taxpayers pick up a $6.2 billion tab annually to cover public aid expenses for Walmart workers earning low wages.
That report came months before Walmart announced in February that 500,000 of its full- and part-time U.S. workers would be getting a wage hike. The hourly minimum wage for Walmart employees went up to $9 in April and will increase to $10 by February 2016.
In light of Walmart's new wage policy, Americans for Tax Fairness re-examined the taxpayer subsidy issue.
"Even after Walmart's planned wage increases are fully implemented, large taxpayer subsidies will still be required to compensate for Walmart's low wages," the group concludes in its newest report.
A Wal-Mart shareholder is urging the retailer to disclose wage information by gender as well as the average hours worked by its male and female employees in an effort "ensure pay equity" at the company.
State and local economic development subsidies awarded to large corporations are exacerbating inequality in America, argues a recent report by Good Jobs First.
Such subsidies are intended to spur economic development and job creation. But, as the report points out, they tend to be given to low-wage employers as well as billionaire-owned "profitable, growing companies that do not need tax breaks to finance a project, meaning that the subsidies serve mainly to increase profits."
"Inequality has many causes, and now we can say development subsidies are among them," said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based subsidy watchdog group. "Subsidies are being awarded to large, profitable companies controlled by billionaires such as Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, while we have too many communities that really need the help."
Walmart workers and their allies plan to take part in what they expect to be the largest Black Friday strikes and protests ever at 1,600 Walmart stores nationwide, including in Chicago and other Illinois cities.
Chicago voters might have an opportunity during the February municipal election to weigh in on a non-binding ballot referendum about paid sick leave for workers in the city.
The council's Rules Committee passed a resolution at its Tuesday meeting calling for an advisory ballot question on whether employers in Chicago should be required to provide their employees with paid leave in the event of an "illness or public health emergency." The full council could consider the proposal at its meeting this Wednesday.
Chicago Ald. Joe Moore (49th), one of the sponsors of the referendum resolution, discussed the measure at a forum on paid sick leave and other pro-worker initiatives held this morning at Roosevelt University.
"It's a great organizing tool for those who support paid sick leave," Moore said of the pending citywide referendum, also sponsored by Alds. Joe Moreno (1st) and Will Burns (4th). Moore said he is confident the measure will pass through the full council tomorrow.
A recent report reveals that Walmart raked in taxpayer subsidies totaling $104 million for its executive pay over the past six years at the same time many of the retailer'slowest-paid workers have had to rely on public assistance to meet their basic needs.
Taxpayers subsidized the pay for top Walmart officials due to what critics say is a loophole that allows unlimited corporate tax write-offs on performance-based compensation for executives.
One year after a Bangladesh factory that produced Walmart clothing collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people, the retailer is still turning a blind eye to dangerous conditions in their supply chain, according to a group of activists who staged a protest Thursday on the North Side of Chicago.
“We’ve been seeing problems after problems in Walmart’s contracted warehouses and it’s time Walmart step up and take responsibility and fix these problems,” said Mark Meinster, campaign director for Warehouse Workers for Justice.
Meinster was one of more than two dozen people who protested Thursday outside Chicago’s Walmart Express, at 2844 N. Broadway, to demand better wages and improved working conditions for employees of the world’s largest retailer and its factories.
“Walmart could easily have fixed the problems in Bangladesh, and they could easily fix problems in their warehouses here in the U.S., but so far they’ve refused to do so,” Meinster said.