On a rainy Black Friday in Los Angeles, Walmart in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza was subjected to an action that was part of a national protest as local pro-union groups formed an “Our Walmart Campaign,” in support of changing what is alleged as the mega retailer’s poor treatment of its employees.

“I would like Walmart to change its philosophy of profit over people,” said Kory Singh, organizer with the “Our Walmart” campaign. Singh echoed the sentiment of the group by suggesting there is a general lack of respect from management, subpar wages, insufficient hours for part-time workers, and minimum healthcare opportunities for their employees.

While the employees worked inside, the 200-plus supporters stood in the rain, chanting and singing as they sought support from drivers and pedestrians passing by. “I feel like we have to lend ourselves to each other’s struggles, and I’m here to support those Walmart employees, working hard to support their families,” said college student, Sandy Gordon. The consensus from protesters suggested that Walmart should increase the wages of its employees and stop practicing unfair labor conditions. “Give the employees respect, because they deserve it,” Gordon said.

“Walmart could afford to pay their employees $30,000 with benefits, and they would still be a top Fortune 500 company,” said protester, Gracie Wheelan.

As the nation’s largest retailer, second-largest corporation, and largest private employer (with 1.3 million workers), one of Walmart’s goals is to fight against their infamous label as a greedy corporation, whose owners are considered the richest family in the world.

According to Forbes, the family (six Waltons) has a net worth of $144.7 billion. Is this a scenario in which the rich are suppressing the poor or does misconceptions and rumors lead union-based groups fighting for justice?

“What you see outside (the “Our Walmart” campaign) is a stark difference from what you see in our stores,” said Rachel Wall, senior manager of community affairs for Walmart.

According to Wall, Walmart lives by the company’s mission, “to help people save money and live better lives, by helping our associates to enter the workforce, enter and grow with the company. As we grow, we want our employees to grow with us,” she said.

When asked why Walmart has such a negative reputation across U.S. communities, Wall concedes that the company has not done a great job in sharing the facts about the organization or clearing up some of the misconceptions. “We’re offering affordable health benefits, competitive pay. We are in the top tier in the retail industry pay, and we are proud of it,” she said.

“I feel that Walmart is a great company to work for; there are misconceptions regarding benefits and opportunities,” said Mark Emerson, a zone supervisor at the store.

According to Emerson, he has health benefits and wages that allow him to take care of his family.”

There’s always two sides of the story, says Jasmine Hall, department manager for foods, who has worked for Walmart for two years. “I have Kaiser, full dental insurance, a 401k, and I’ve only been here for two years.” According to Hall, she began employment as an hourly sales associate and within three months, was promoted to manager. Other employees shared Hall’s sentiment. “It’s a great company to work for; I love the store I am in and the team, “ said James Curtis, asset protection associate.

According to www.glassdoor.com, on a national average, Walmart’s associates earn between $8.87 and $11.41 per hour. Walmart is a non-union company.

By Mesiyah McGinnis
OW Contributor