Just Hours at the Top of the Agenda for D.C. City Council

On January 13, members of the coalition for Just Hours testified at a DC city council hearing in favor of the Hours and Scheduling Stability Act, spearheaded by D.C. Jobs With Justice and introduced by Councilmember Vincent Orange. The proposed rules would usher in more predictable schedules and stable employment opportunities for people working in the District’s retail and restaurant chains.

While a national trend of minimum wage increases continues, the demand for ending erratic work schedules to ensure more sustainable jobs is growing. According to a recent poll, a wide majority of D.C. residents say they support the measures included in the legislation. Some 86 percent of D.C. residents say they would support a law that would mandate stable hours and predictable work schedules from employers. Additionally, 87 percent of those surveyed say they would support rules that would require two weeks’ advance notice of work schedules, and 88 percent say they would support rules that would require large corporate chain stores and restaurants to first offer additional work hours to their part-time employees before hiring new employees.

RasImani Diggs, an employee at a Marshall’s store in Ward 1 in the District, testified about the challenges she faces with inconvenient and ever-changing schedules: “They post a schedule a day or two before the week starts, but it can change at any time. I have to try to call in or take metro from Kenilworth on a day I don’t even work just to check my schedule and see if it’s changed.  I can’t plan anything in my life. With a second job and trying to help my family, if my schedule changes, all of my plans have to change too.”

The Hours and Scheduling Stability Act would lessen some of the scheduling stress faced by RasImani and thousands of other men and women who work in the District by requiring large retail and restaurant chains to provide their employees with advance notice of schedules so people aren’t living day-to-day, by curbing the use of abusive “on-call schedules,” by compensating employees when these shifts are canceled with less than 24 hours’ notice, and by promoting full-time work opportunities and equal treatment for hourly employees.  This bill is coupled with a similar piece of legislation that would mandate minimum work hours for janitorial and maintenance employees at large office buildings.

Similar legislation was enacted in San Francisco last year and is also under consideration in Massachusetts, New York and California, as well as in Congress.

Wages and working conditions in the D.C. retail industry have earned a great deal of attention since the January 2013 introduction of the Large Retailer Accountability Act reinvigorated the debate over Walmart’s entry into the District. The legislation would have mandated all big box retailers pay at least $12.50 in wages and benefits and sparked a larger discussion on the types of jobs retail industries should be creating.  While the bill failed to become law, it did allow community activists to successfully push for an across-the-board minimum wage increase and a host of other workers’ rights victories.

Yet by and large, people who work in retail, food service, custodial and other service sector jobs are underpaid and stuck with part-time schedules and limited employer-provided benefits. These jobs make up 19 percent of all employment in the District, and a disproportionate number of people who hold these jobs are Black or Latino (70 percent).

While the Hours and Scheduling Stability Act has the backing of eight councilmembers, the success of the policy is by no means certain. During the hearing, several councilmembers made statements referencing potential amendments that would make it “more implementable” in response to concerns from representatives in the business community who seem intent on navigating these issues on their own.

It’s true that some retailers have already started to address their employees’ scheduling complaints. Nikki Lewis, executive director of D.C. Jobs With Justice, noted at the hearing that retailers like Gap, Costco, J. Crew, and even Walmart had taken some baby steps in providing more advance notice in work schedules. While the overtures from retailers are a step in the right direction, new, enforceable standards are needed to make sure that everyone who works in the District has a fair schedule.

Despite a tough round of questions and a full-court press by retail and restaurant industry actors, working people and community leaders are determined to push forward. As RasImani explained, speaking out for better schedules and standards is worth fighting for, despite the risk of retaliation, “Even if I do lose my job at Marshalls, [this legislation] is a gain for others who have children or who are trying to pay their way through college.”


The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced new employer guidelines to determine whether the individuals who work for them should be classified as employees or independent contractors. The Treasury Department estimates that companies are misclassifying millions of people every year, classifying them as independent contractors when the law says that they should be treated as employees. Some of this rampant misclassification may be the result of misunderstanding of the law, though the Department of Labor asserts that in many cases, “employees may be intentionally misclassified as a means to cut costs and avoid compliance with labor laws.”

Why does it matter how a company is classifying you/an employee to the IRS? Our laws grant fundamental workplace benefits and protections to men and women who are direct employees of an employer. But those classified as independent contractors when they should really be considered employees are cheated out of vital benefits and legal safeguards – from civil rights protections to the legal right to band together and join a union. By misclassifying employees as independent contractors, companies are able to dodge these requirements that help ensure that working people have a basic level of protections on the job and access to a safety net.

According to the DOL, determining whether an employee is an independent contractor comes down to what they call an “economic realities test”: If a person is economically dependent on their employer, they’re an employee. If a person is conducting business independently and is not dependent on their employer, they’re an independent contractor.

This guidance comes at a much-needed time when laws haven’t caught up with the dramatic changes to work in this country and as corporate CEOs have figured out how to rig outdated workplace rules in their favor. Most victims of misclassification are not willingly employed in traditional, full-time, permanent jobs. Businesses have long looked for ways to remove themselves of the responsibilities that come with being an employer by contracting out services like cleaning and security to other companies or hiring employees through temp agencies. More recently, companies are capitalizing off this same work model in the so-called “sharing economy,” where services are provided on-demand through companies like Uber and Lyft by individuals the companies claim are independent contractors, not employees. Advocates of this business model claim they give both employers and employees the advantage of flexibility in hiring and service providing. Yet what’s clear is that the people doing the work are assuming all of the risk of this model while the owners of these companies reap the rewards.

Employers persist in their misclassification, attempting to convince courts and other agencies that their workers are independent contractors in order to avoid their legal obligations to their workers. Here are some examples of how misclassified employees face exploitation:

  • Uber, the popular app that allows customers to request drivers on-demand, was recently ordered to pay thousands of dollars in expenses to a California employee who was found to be misclassified as an independent contractor. Uber, like most companies in the so-called “sharing economy,” classifies its employees as independent contractors, claiming to simply be a technology company connecting service-providers to customers. The company has appealed the California Labor Commission’s decision, which will now move to the California courts.
  • Walmart outsources logistics operations, pressuring subcontractors to employ warehouse workers for very low pay, often under dangerous conditions. At one subcontractor, workers filed a complaint with Cal/OSHA over the temperature regularly reaching 100 degrees and drivers operating machinery without proper training.
  • FedEx Ground misclassifies drivers as independent contractors, denying them the right to organize and protections from discrimination. Numerous federal and state agencies and courts have found the company guilty of this practice, ordering it to pay millions in back taxes.
  • Nonfiction television production firms often hire writers and producers as freelancers or indirectly employ them through subcontractors, manipulating outdated employment exemptions to deny these professionals overtime pay and healthcare benefits.

Not only does misclassification lead to low labor standards and erosion of workplace rights for employees; it also costs federal and state governments billions of dollars. According to the DOL, “Employee misclassification generates substantial losses to the federal government and state governments in the form of lower tax revenues, as well as to state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation funds.” At a time when governments at all levels are facing difficult budget choices and making cuts to programs that Americans depend upon, there is no excuse for allowing so many businesses to cheat the system.

Establishing new, clearer guidelines for employee classification is an important first step, but it’s only just the beginning. If the guidelines aren’t enforced, bad employers will continue exploiting the men and women who work for them and costing taxpayers billions each year. While some companies like on-demand grocery start-up Instacart have moved to reclassify former independent contractors as employees, many corporate CEOs will refuse to follow suit. We need to hold corporations accountable to these new guidelines, because misclassification will continue to cost more and more of us the ability to lead a good life.

Download the PDF: New Guidance to Stop Companies From Misclassifying Employees

This week, employees of companies like Marshalls, McDonald’s and Macy’s told nearly 100 Washington, D.C. residents gathered at Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church how unstable hours and so-called “just-in-time” scheduling practices take a toll on their families and their ability to make ends meet. The community hearing kicked off the launch of the DC Just Hours campaign, and gave the men and women who work in D.C.’s service industry a chance to talk about their experiences, and for them, along with representatives from community organizations and elected offices to present policy solutions for a problem ripe to be solved. Those who spoke at the hearing, hosted by the DC Jobs With Justice Workers’ Rights Board, included not only employees, but also education advocates, faith leaders and elected officials.

In a report on D.C. employer scheduling practices released last month by DC Jobs With Justice along with Jobs With Justice Education Fund, DC Fiscal Policy Institute and Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, a survey of 436 respondents in the retail and restaurant/food service industries found that D.C. employees are granted too few hours on too short notice, challenging their ability to lead a good life.

At the hearing, testimony given from people who work for fast food and retail companies confirmed the report’s findings. RasImani Diggs, a clerk at Marshalls described her experience asking her supervisor for additional hours: “We ask for more hours, but it’s always the same song. They say, ‘We don’t have enough,’ but then hire 15 more people.”

“Just-in-time” scheduling practices, where employees are asked to come and go depending on how much work there is to do, are highly prevalent in the District. According to the report, “Unpredictable, Unsustainable: The Impact of Employers’ Scheduling Practices in D.C.,” nearly half of surveyed employees said they first learned of their work schedules less than a week in advance and nearly one-third received scheduling changes with less than 24 hours’ notice. Individuals can also be assigned on-call shifts, where they call in shortly before their shift to find out if they’re needed. Essentially, employees are expected to be available full time when they only receive part-time pay. Sixty percent said they must always be available to fulfill any assigned work schedule – regardless of the days or hours – in order to be considered for full-time hours or the best shifts available. Practices like these result in unpredictable incomes and work schedules that make it hard for individuals to budget, arrange childcare, continue with education or hold down a second job to try to make ends meet.

Laura, a cook at McDonald’s, spoke of the difficulties of receiving her work schedule with little advance notice. “We never know what our schedule is going to be for the week,” she told the board.

D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman spoke in support of ending erratic scheduling practices. “We need to come together as a city to find a solution to these issues,” she said to the crowd.

Business owners have also expressed support for fair scheduling legislation, as reliable schedules can lead to more productive employees and lower turnover rates. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, when lower-wage, hourly employees have workplace flexibility, 79 percent of managers report increased productivity and 74 percent report lower absenteeism. And when businesses take into account their employees’ scheduling needs, turnover rates have been found to be 22.9 percent lower.

Tony Lucca, owner of 1905 Bar & Bistro and El Camino Restaurant affirmed the benefits of predictable schedules. In a statement shared as testimony at the event, he explained, “Because of how we treat our staff, we have relatively low turnover and employees are satisfied with their jobs. I believe all workers in our industry – and others – deserve fair schedules. We need public policies to create a minimum standard for workers’ schedules.”

While many employers see the value of stable schedules, it’s clear that some of D.C.’s employers can do better. Through the DC Just Hours campaign, DC Jobs With Justice is leading the charge to ensure elected representatives can set commonsense standards for stable work schedules to continue making Washington, D.C. a great place to live, work and sustain a family.

The momentum to ensure more of our friends and neighbors can secure better hours and better lives is building. Last year, Jobs With Justice San Francisco led a successful campaign to pass the Retail Worker Bill of Rights, requiring large chain stores operating in the city to offer more hours to part-time employees before hiring additional employees.  Under this policy, employers must provide employees with notice of schedules two weeks in advance and pay them when their shifts are canceled with less than 24-hours’ notice. And just today, Senators Warren, Murphy, and Murray and Representatives DeLauro and Scott introduced the Schedules That Work Act in Congress so that everyone has the right to request a predictable schedule.

To learn more about the movement for fair, predictable scheduling in D.C., check out the DC Just Hours website.

Two years ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made headlines with campaign speeches that told the “tale of two cities” and laid out a progressive agenda to create more balance in our economy. Now, the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) is challenging him to make good on that promise by ensuring that his ambitious rezoning plan results in real affordable housing and good retail jobs for NYC residents.

Many families simply cannot afford to live in New York City. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, New York City is home to the greatest income gap between the wealthiest and poorest in the country. The top five percent of households earn 88 times what the bottom 20 percent earn. Skyrocketing rent costs contribute to the off-kilter economy in the city. Rent in the city has risen faster than inflation over the last three years; the median rent with utilities now sits at $1,325 a month. In Manhattan, average monthly rent is $3,438.

The crux of de Blasio’s rezoning plan is to create mixed-income housing that is anchored by ground floor retail tenants that help sustain the new developments and bring jobs to the community. While this sounds good on paper, many communities that have been through re-development have seen “mixed income” result in only a small fraction of affordable units and “mixed use” bring big chain stores with poverty-level jobs that drag down living conditions.

ALIGN believes it’s possible for NYC to do better, and is working through two coalitions – Real Affordability for All and Walmart-Free NYC – to set new standards for development that meet the needs of all New Yorkers.

“There is an opportunity here for economic development that sustains working people and communities,” said Martiza Silva-Farrell, Campaign Director at ALIGN. “But communities need to have a say in what is built, in what kinds of jobs will be there and in what defines affordable housing and good jobs.”

On June 12, the Walmart-Free NYC coalition released a new report, Taking the High-Road: How the City of New York Can Create Thousands of Good Retail Jobs Through Neighborhood Rezoning. The report responds to the possibility of low-road corporations like Walmart using the rezoning process to sneak into the city by laying out a clear policy roadmap for how the city can ensure that the jobs created in new mixed-used developments are high quality.

“Retail is one of the fastest-growing sectors of our city’s economy, and we want to ensure that future retail jobs in rezoned neighborhoods strengthen the lives of local residents and families,” said Audrey Sasson, Director of Walmart-Free NYC. “Our communities deserve much better than Walmart and other low-road retailers. Mayor de Blasio has a history of opposing Walmart and fighting for good jobs. We want him to take bold action and show that his administration is fully committed to making our city a leading high-road retail city.”

The report lays out standards for what qualifies as a “high-road” retailer, including offering New Yorkers a combination of living wage jobs with benefits, stable full-time schedules, ample training and career advancement opportunities, along with the freedom to form a union.

Walmart Free NYC’s roadmap for good retail jobs adds to a rezoning agenda that the Real Affordability for All coalition has been pushing for the past year. The agenda includes significant goals for affordable housing and new construction that create quality jobs for local neighborhood residents.

Specifically, Real Affordability for All is calling for at least 50 percent of apartments in each new development to be affordable for current residents of the neighborhood, and that what is considered “affordable” be tailored to each community so that long-term residents aren’t priced out.

Walmart-Free NYC shares this commitment to neighborhood-driven development, emphasizing that the character and style of high-road retail stores can vary neighborhood by neighborhood and include and cover all types and sizes of retail stores in order to help preserve economic diversity and neighborhood character.

“In neighborhood rezoning efforts, the de Blasio administration can and should make it clear to developers that it is crucial to incorporate each community’s vision for high-road retail into new projects,” said Josh Kellermann, Senior Researcher at ALIGN and the lead author of the report.

As the rezoning process moves forward, both coalitions will engage in grassroots campaigns and mobilize a broad constituencies to win their vision of community and worker-driven economic development that puts families first allows all New Yorkers to thrive.

Walmart is not only the world’s largest retailer and private employer; it’s also the overseer of one of the largest supply chains in the world. Walmart exerts enormous pressure on its suppliers and even has million-plus square foot warehouses just for its own products. Even though Walmart exerts an enormous amount of power over this supply chain, the company takes a hands-off approach when it comes to enforcing workers’ rights—rights verbalized in its own ‘standards for suppliers.’

Walmart’s lack of accountability to the people who make and move goods for the chain has attracted sizable attention in recent years. In 2013, the worst garment industry catastrophe in history occurred when the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. At this factory that manufactured garments for Walmart, at least 1,138 people were killed and more than 2,500 were injured. And yet Walmart has refused to sign onto substantive safety and labor accords, which more than 150 companies have signed onto, that would prevent such tragedies from happening again.

As there are still conditions throughout the company’s garment supply chain that put millions of people at risk, Jobs With Justice has partnered with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance and others to investigate further. From our research, we’ve produced a report documenting serious labor violations and abuse of workers by Walmart’s garment suppliers in India, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Our report found numerous instances of rampant wage theft, violations of workers’ internationally recognized rights to create and join unions and chronic gender and sexual harassment from factory managers throughout the garment sector in all three countries. In line with new research from the Food Chain Workers’ Alliance, we found Walmart does little to nothing to ensure workers’ rights are respected within its own garment supply chain.

The report provides several recommendations for Walmart to take to ensure workers’ and human rights are enforced and respected in its supply chain, including:

    1. Institute engaged and responsive Corporate Social Responsibility-compliance representatives in supplier countries to discuss enforcement of rights with local unions and suppliers.
    2. Launch an investigation into abuses by its suppliers, and take any and all necessary steps to correct the violations found.
    3. Immediately open dialogue with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance about closing the gap between the minimum wage and living wage across the garment sector in Asia.

This report provides a detailed look at what happens when a major corporate actor shirks its responsibility to maintain basic labor and human rights standards. As the world’s largest retailer, and thus as the trendsetter for the production of all manner of products, Walmart has an obligation to ensure dignity for the people who create its products.

Representatives from the United States and Asia who contributed to the report will present on some of their findings Thursday, June 25, 2015 in New York, NY. For more information, click here.

Following two weeks of protests in cities across the country, leaders of the group OUR Walmart descended on Arkansas last Friday for the company’s annual shareholder meeting. In addition to reiterating their call for $15 an hour and access to full-time hours for all associates, worker shareholders proposed a handful of resolutions intended to make Walmart a more ethical employer and corporation. While employees presented these resolutions to the shareholder meeting, Jobs With Justice coalitions organized solidarity actions near stores around the country.

One of the OUR Walmart resolutions called for the adoption of a policy requiring future Chairs of the Walmart Board of Directors to be independent of the company. The employees argued that current Chair Rob Walton was unable to represent non-insider shareholders because of his membership in the Walton family, which controls more than half of outstanding company shares.

Venanzi Luna, a member of OUR Walmart who has worked for Walmart in Pico Rivera, Calif. for eight years, spoke out in favor of this resolution. Luna’s store was the first Walmart store to strike in 2012, and one of five stores the company abruptly closed in April, citing “plumbing issues.” More than 2,000 workers were laid off following these sudden closures. In explaining why an independent chair was needed, Luna said at the meeting:

“Mr. Rob Walton, the current non-independent chair of the board, is the most powerful person at our company. The buck stops with him… He could stop these layoffs. He could stop the retaliation. He could stop this company from repeatedly breaking the law. But he has not. “

Unsurprisingly, given that the Walton family controls a majority of the shares and thus a majority of the vote, the resolution did not pass. Walton also announced to shareholders that he would be keeping the business in the family, naming his son-in-law Greg Penner as his successor.

Another shareholder proposal, supported by the Sierra Club, asked that Walmart reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by international marine shipping. In discussing the proposal, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune explained, “Despite some efforts on the company’s part to reduce its carbon footprint, Walmart is still one of the largest and fastest-growing polluters in the country.” This measure similarly was not passed.

Other resolutions put forth by OUR Walmart workers included a request for annual reports on senior executive incentive compensation and a proposal for proxy access for shareholders.

While Walmart shareholders rejected the employees’ proposals, members of OUR Walmart are not resigned. “We’re not done yet,” said Mary Watkines, a 15-year Walmart associate, OUR Walmart member and shareholder. “We’re going to continue to speak up until all associates get what they need to support their families. That starts with getting Walmart to publicly commit to paying at least $15 an hour and a consistent full-time schedule for every associate who wants one.”

Indeed, OUR Walmart has successfully organized for improved working conditions this year. In February, Walmart caved to worker pressure and announced it would raise wages for 500,000 U.S. associates. Just this week, the company announced that it would raise wages for another 100,000 department managers and other specialized workers in U.S. stores.

These modest pay increases, without any guarantee of adequate hours, are by no means sufficient—many employees of the profitable corporation are still forced to rely on government assistance programs like food stamps to get by.

Clearly, Walmart and the Walton family—heirs to the Walmart empire—can afford to pay workers $15 an hour and provide full-time work, a move that would only increase the Walmart’s prices by mere pennies, according to an analysis by Slate and Marketplace last year. Since 2007, the fortune of six members of the Walton family has more than doubled to $148.8 billion. These six people have more wealth than 43 percent of America’s families combined.

UPDATE (4/20/2015): Today, members of OUR Walmart have filed a claim with the National Labor Relations Board seeking an injunction to require Walmart to rehire all 2,200 employees laid off last week.

The group has also launched a petition to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, calling on him to transfer all laid off employees to the Walmart nearest their home, compensate them until arrangements can be made for their transfer, and offer them the opportunity to return to their store once it reopens.

Add your name to the petition now »

This week, hundreds of employees at Walmart stores across the country were informed that they no longer have a job at the retailer.

Walmart suddenly announced that it would be immediately closing five stores for at least six months due to “plumbing problems.” While the company claimed the problems have persisted for the last few years, in each incident, Walmart only gave employees a few hours’ notice that their stores were closing.

Remarkably, Walmart’s spokesperson, Delia Garcia, claimed “these are not layoffs” just before clarifying that “everyone will have to reapply as if new employees” once the stores reopen.

Not surprisingly, many employees and customers aren’t buying it. According to city officials in Pico Rivera, CA, home to one of the five closed stores, Walmart has not even applied for permits to engage in plumbing work. The other shuttered locations included stores in Livingston, TX; Midland, TX; Brandon, FL; and Tulsa, OK. As one Walmart customer at a store in Florida noted:

“If it was a plumbing issue, would they really wait this long to shut down immediately?”

Given Walmart’s well-documented track record of retaliating against employees who speak out for better working conditions, it’s much more likely that this recent spate of store closings is just the latest effort to silence dissent within the company’s workforce.

At the Pico Rivera store, the mostly Latina workers have been some of the most vocal Walmart associates calling for improved conditions at the retailer. In 2012, the store was home to the first-ever strike by Walmart employees in the United States. On Black Friday last year, the same store saw the first-ever sit-down strike in the company’s history. Indeed, of the approximately 4,000 stores in the country, it’s a curious coincidence that plumbing problems have afflicted the store with the most outspoken workers.

This wouldn’t be the first time Walmart has abruptly closed a store that just so happens to employ a large number of outspoken and well-organized employees. In 2005, Walmart closed a store in Quebec shortly after its employees at the store voted in favor of forming a union. The Canadian Supreme Court later ruled that Walmart’s actions were illegal and ordered the company to compensate the fired employees.

As tens of thousands of men and women rally and strike throughout the country this week as part of the Fight for 15 movement, members of OUR Walmart have no plans to quit speaking out. Pico Rivera associates plan to protest at the store every day until the company guarantees their jobs back. And OUR Walmart, the association of current and former Walmart employees, are calling for all 530 laid off associates at the Pico Rivera store to be transferred to the store nearest them, receive compensation until they are relocated and be offered the possibility to return to their previous positions when the store reopens.

Even if we accept the claim that “plumbing problems” are to blame, for a company with $16 billion in profits last year alone, Walmart could easily afford to accommodate the basic needs of the hundreds of employees it laid off this week.

It was only a few months ago that Walmart CEO Doug McMillon stated one of the company’s “highest priorities must be to invest more in our people this year.” It’s hard to see how laying off hundreds of employees with only a few hours’ notice fits in with Walmart’s newly announced priorities. Once again, we see Walmart’s public relations statements are a far cry from how the retailer actually regards the 1.4 million Americans working for them. As Venanzi Luna, a now-former Walmart associate, explained:

“This is my bread. There’s a lot of single moms here (and) older people that depend on this. This is how we pay our rent, how we take care of our families.”

Walmart’s recent reactions to protests indicate that the ongoing efforts of OUR Walmart and the Fight For $15 movement are having an effect. If it weren’t for the courageous actions of people speaking out for better pay and working conditions at Walmart and other corporate giants, it’s unlikely that the world’s largest retailer would have felt compelled to raise starting wages earlier this year, let alone taken such drastic action this week to silence dissent among the very employees trying to hold them accountable to those promises.

This week, news reports revealed that Target, the second largest U.S. retailer, will raise its starting minimum wage for all of its employees to $9 an hour next month. This news comes on the heels of Walmart, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and The Gap announcing wage raises across their stores.

Make no mistake, the sweeping change in employment policies is not a result of corporate benevolence. Credit for these raises is due to the persistent efforts of OUR Walmart members and their allies for years of protesting and speaking out for better jobs.

As Reuters reported:

“The move comes in the face of pressure from labor groups and allies calling for a “living wage” at retailers and fast-food companies across the country.”

We’re elated, but not surprised that up to a million women and men working in retail will see their wages hiked this spring. It’s proof positive that Walmart has a ripple effect across the retail industry. And it’s why we’ll keep pressing Walmart to provide its employees with $15 an hour and full-time hours so that more of our friends and neighbors can make ends meet.

As the largest U.S. employer, Walmart sets the standard not just for the retail and service industries, but for the economy as a whole. Walmart’s poor labor practices and standards put pressure on many other businesses to lower wages and benefits in order to compete. The result is a Walmart economy where our jobs, health care and labor standards have all downgraded.

But as Target’s wage hike makes clear, if we can change Walmart, we can improve the lives of all working people.

So for those of you that have always wondered why we haven’t targeted Target for the company’s low wages, poor schedules and benefits, hopefully this clears things up:

Organization United for RespectMaking Change, & The Wal*Mart 1 Percent, congratulations on changing an entire industry!

After facing years of ongoing strikes and protests from its own employees, Walmart announced plans today to give raises to nearly 500,000 of the company’s 1.3 million U.S. employees.

In a letter to Walmart associates, CEO Doug McMillon outlined a series of “comprehensive changes” to the company’s “hiring, training, compensation, and scheduling programs” that include increasing starting wages to $9 an hour by April and to at least $10 an hour by early next year.

OUR Walmart, the association of current and former Walmart employees that have made headlines for their annual strikes on Black Friday, credit the sweeping change in company policy to the persistent efforts of its members speaking out for better wages and adequate hours to make ends meet.

Of course, in a letter explaining his motivation for these changes, Doug McMillon made no mention of public pressure or worker strikes. Diverging from his predecessor Bill Simon, who encouraged disgruntled employees to simply “go to another company and another job,” McMillon credited the raises with what is best described as a sudden and newfound interest in the well-being of Walmart employees:

“We’re always trying to do the right thing and build a stronger business. We frequently get it right but sometimes we don’t. When we don’t, we adjust… When we take a step back, it’s clear to me that one of our highest priorities must be to invest more in our people this year.”

Even with today’s changes, Walmart will continue to have the highest CEO-to-worker pay ratio among Fortune 500 companies. McMillon’s own compensation rose 168 percent to $25.6 million in 2014. The Walton family, controlling owners of Walmart, constitute the richest family in America with the same wealth as the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined.

So it’s not surprising that the world’s largest private employer could easily do much more to address its workers’ basic human needs. As Emily Wells, a leader of OUR Walmart explained in a statement today:

“The company is addressing the very issues that we have been raising about the low pay and erratic scheduling, and acknowledging how many of us are being paid less than $10 an hour, and many workers like me, are not getting the hours we need. As a soon-to-be-mom making only $9.50 an hour, it’s very difficult to make ends meet with my part time schedule, which gives me only about 26 hours per week.

Especially without a guarantee of getting regular hours, this announcement still falls short of what American workers need to support our families.  With $16 billion in profits and $150 billion in wealth for the owners, Walmart can afford to provide the good jobs that Americans need – and that means $15 an hour, full-time, consistent hours and respect for our hard work.”

With Walmart’s track record, OUR Walmart is justifiably cautious about the company’s public commitments. The organization’s members have faced years of unlawful retaliation from the retailer for demanding many of the changes announced today. Moreover, the company’s alleged commitment to its employees hardly shines through when so many store associates – and even managers – have been forced to turn to online outlets like Gawker to air their grievances anonymously out of fear of losing their jobs.

In addition to the increase in wages, McMillon outlined a number of other changes to employee policy that clearly echo demands made by members of OUR Walmart.

The company plans to initiate a new program to offer some employees fixed schedules each week, although McMillon made no commitment to offer full-time schedules to associates. The scheduling announcement comes on the heels of recent groundbreaking laws to curb abusive scheduling at corporate retailers, such as the Retail Workers Bill of Rights that was passed unanimously in San Francisco last year.

McMillon also announced to the Associated Press plans to invest $100 million to the Walmart Foundation to “support programs that help advance careers for entry-level workers in the industry.” Once again, the company’s track record is at odds with his promises. As Walmart’s own internal compensation documents reveal, the retail giant systematically places limits on the ability of associates to advance. As one long-time store manager described, the home office has systematically slashed employee benefits over the last two decades.

Regardless of the reason for Walmart’s announcement today, one thing is clear: OUR Walmart has no plans of letting up the pressure:

“Until we see the increased wages in our paychecks, the hours on our schedules and the rehiring and respect of our co-workers, we will keep standing up for better jobs at Walmart.”

And they’re not alone. With recent polls indicating the majority of Americans support an increase in the minimum wage, and as strikes and protests calling for $15 an hour and full-time schedules spread through other industries, we’re finally seeing the cumulative effect of years of organizing and demonstrating.

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