Walmart to Respect DC community?
As Walmart prepares to celebrate its 50th Anniversary, groups across the country have been organizing their own teach-ins and town halls to tell their own story about what 50 years of Walmart has meant to workers and communities. In Washington, DC the Respect DC had a community teach-in on Friday, July 29th. Speakers included Michael Mensan and Bertha Guillen, Walmart Associates from Laurel, MD and members of OUR Walmart, a national association of Walmart workers. Walmart has proposed six store locations in Wards 4, 5, 6, and 7 in Washington, DC, and has building permits for two of the locations. Respect DC has been demanding that Walmart sign a binding community benefits agreement before opening in DC. This demand is echoed nationally by members of OUR Walmart, who are calling on the company to provide a living wage and healthcare benefits, to sign a national community benefits agreement, and to sign a global agreement to ensure that they use responsible contractors and suppliers.
Walmart has been promising to create 1,800 new jobs in DC, but community members are concerned about the way Walmart has devastated other communities across the US and across the globe.
Grace Sheedy of the United Food and Commercial Workers shared information on Walmart’s practices in other countries. The Department of Justice is currently investigating Walmart for charges of corruption and bribery in Mexico and a number of other countries. Meanwhile closer to home, a Walmart supplier, CJ’s Seafood, is under investigation by the Department of Labor after workers went on strike in protest of forced labor conditions. Saket Soni from the National Guestworker Alliance spoke about efforts of guestworkers at CJ’s Seafood to engage Walmart in holding their supplier accountable. Strikers have been attempted to meet with Walmart officials and board members for the past two weeks, and on Saturday held a 24-hour fast in front of the house of Walmart board member Michelle Burns in New York City.
In light of increasing concern over how Walmart Associates, warehouse workers, and guestworkers are being treated, the DC community is more adamant than ever that Walmart meet their demands before opening stores in DC. Respect DC will be holding a vigil on Monday, July 9th with community members, faith leaders, and Walmart Associates at the proposed Walmart site in Ward 4. For details: ttp://www.dclabor.org/ht/display/EventDetails/i/102558/pid/538
The event in DC was one of many actions and teach-ins across the country. The biggest event of the day was in Los Angeles, where 10,000 people marched against Walmart’s poverty-level jobs. Jobs with Justice local coalitions in Cleveland and Central Indiana leafleted local stores, while in Chicago JwJ joined local unions and Chicago Neighborhoods First coalition for a speak-out. In Dallas, a Solidarity Night event brought together Walmart Associates with members of the Teamsters, Communications Workers of America, Ironworkers to speak about their struggles while enjoying a community cook-out. Portland JwJ collaborated with the UFCW on a workshop/discussion on how to build a local campaign to keep Walmart from damaging a community and lowering standards for workers. In Eastern Massachusetts, where JwJ recently won a major victory keeping Walmart out of the Somerville and Watertown communities, a Disobedience School combined education about Walmart with training on how communities can organize to win.