Posted on December 7, 2018
This Holiday Season, OUR Walmart Demands $15/hr, Real Raises for Long-Term Employees and Full-Time Hours for Associates
Madeline Chambers is a mother, OUR Walmart leader, and Walmart associate of two years living with two kids in Gastonia, NC. OUR Walmart improves the lives of workers in the country’s largest employer and job sector and is a long-time ally of CREDO. Since 2014, CREDO members have voted to donate over $186,000 to OUR Walmart.
This time of year, Americans everywhere head to stores like Walmart for the biggest shopping season of the year. When they arrive, they’re be greeted by people like me – retail workers ready and willing to help find that “something special” for their loved ones this holiday season.
But even as retail jobs become one of the most common occupations in the country, there’s a dark side to this holiday shopping craze our customers need to know. Behind the smiles and festive store decorations, hundreds of thousands of Walmart employees are struggling during the holidays to get by on poverty wages and limited access to the full-time hours we need to survive.
I’m one of those Walmart associates. After two years of working at the company, I still make just $11 an hour. As a single parent of two children, this means that I’m forced to make tough decisions about what bills to pay and how I’ll make ends meet every day. Only a year and a half ago, my family and I were homeless. I worry that we’ll find ourselves in that position again if things don’t change soon.
And I’m not alone. I know others – many of whom have dedicated years to this company – that have to rely on food stamps and other forms of government assistance just to get by.
As a mother, the pain caused by being in this position is even harder during the holidays. Like many parents, I want to make this time of year as special as I can for my children, and it’s heartbreaking to still be struggling despite the blood, sweat and tears I have poured into this job.
But while working families at Walmart suffer this holiday season, people at the top of the corporate ladder are counting their blessings with room to spare. The Walton heirs – who own 50 percent of the company– have a net worth of around $180 billion, with top executives like Marc Lore, Greg Foran and Doug McMillon regularly bringing home millions in annual compensation. Walmart is even preparing to spend $20 billion to buy back its own stock, funneling more and more of the company’s profits back to executives and the largest shareholders like the Waltons.
Despite being flush with cash, Walmart says it can’t afford to pay employees a living wage. Perhaps even more insulting, company leaders insist $11 an hour is still “the right amount to pay” in some parts of the country. But no matter how you spin the numbers, Walmart’s starting wages can’t cover basic living costs – for a person, let alone a family – in any state in the country, according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator.
Even Walmart’s competitors are catching on. Amazon just lifted its minimum wage to $15 an hour, and Target has committed to $15 an hour by 2020.
The message to workers like me from Walmart’s top execs and the Walton family is crystal clear: We may have helped build this company and we may serve its customers loyally everyday, but we don’t deserve a living wage for our hard work. Meanwhile, American taxpayers continue to foot the bill for billions in government assistance that workers like me need to survive on poverty pay.
It’s time to put working families first.
Walmart associates, alongside allies and working people from across the retail industry, are coming together through OUR Walmart to hold Walmart accountable to the frontline workforce it depends on. From coast to coast, we’re standing together to fight for fair wages, access to full-time work and the respect we deserve.
Our movement is already starting to show its teeth. Last month, three other OUR Walmart leaders and I joined Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ro Khanna as they introduced the Stop WALMART Act. This legislation would require low-wage employers like Walmart to guarantee living wages for all employees and institute other sensible workplace policies before they can spend billions buying back their own shares. We also made our voices heard at Walmart.com’s headquarters in California and outside the penthouses of Walmart heiress Alice Walton and Jet.com CEO Marc Lore in NYC.
The legislation introduced by Sen. Sanders and Rep. Khanna is based on the common sense principle that a company willing to pour troves of cash into the stock market should first make sure the people who helped build the company – hard-working Walmart associates like me – are made whole.
Last year, four of the Walton family members made $12.7 billion in a single day. It would take a Walmart worker like me more than 650,000 years working full time to make the same amount. But my two children and I and thousands of other working families at Walmart, don’t have millennia to wait. It’s time for the country’s largest corporate employer to do right by its associates and publicly commit to paying all of its employees a living wage.