7 Signs the National Outcry Against Walmart Will Lead to Big Changes

November 26, 2013 | | Alternet |

“People across the country are starting to see the real Walmart,” said Q Knapp, a Texas Walmart worker who went on strike Wednesday. “And that’s why I will continue to stand up because the time for change is now.”

Indeed. If there were ever a time to make change at the nation’s largest private employer, it’s now. Walmart’s overwhelming contempt for workers, expressed through its continued low wages and poor benefits, its retaliation against workers who organize, and its sole goal of profit — even pushing Black Friday deals up two hours to begin on 6pm Thanksgiving Day — has caused outrage. The outcry against Walmart’s working conditions has been quickly picking up steam, becoming a national topic of conversation right in time for the 1,500 Black Friday protests scheduled across the country, where people will rally in front of stores to demand respect and fair treatment.

Knapp, who has worked at Walmart for 19 years, said she went on strike because she was “tired of being disrespected.” She said that when her brother went to the hospital after having a heart attack, she received Walmart’s approval to spend time in the hospital with him. But when she returned to work, she was disciplined for being absent. Knapp said she has also witnessed a fellow coworker get terminated after fighting for better working conditions.

“Walmart is a bully, and the only way to fight back against a bully is to speak up,” Knapp said. “The message to Walmart is simple: we will not be silent.”

And they haven’t been. The workers are making a lot of noise and sparking a nationwide dialogue. Here are seven signs that their actions are turning the tide on workers’ rights. [...]

7. Paying workers more makes sense.

After garnering an outpouring of support, it never hurts to have math behind you. A new report from Demos, a public policy organization, found that Walmart could raise its workers’ wages by $5.83 an hour and not have to raise its prices a single cent. The report, titled “A Higher Wage is Possible: How Walmart Can Invest in Its Workforce Without Costing Customers a Dime,” found that Walmart spent $7.6 billion last year to buy back shares of its own stock. Amy Traub, co-author of the report, called the tactic a “Wall Street financial maneuver that makes stock shares worth more.” She said if Walmart redirected this spending into its workforce, it would have a beneficial effect on the economy overall.

Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon said at a conference that 475,000 out of its 1.3 million workers are paid more than $25,000, which has been understood to mean that the other two-thirds of its workforce isn't. Walmart’s median wage is $8.80 an hour. Meanwhile, Walmart made more than $17 billion in profits last year. The Walton family’s wealth totals nearly $145 billion — equal to the wealth of 42 percent of Americans.

Walmart has been dubbed “America’s real welfare queen” for relying on taxpayers to help its workers in the form of government assistance. As the food drive photo illustrated, wages at Walmart are so low, workers struggle just to afford basic needs. This is most likely what plays a huge role in Walmart’s decreased salesfor its third straight quarter. Bill Simon stated that shrinking sales are due to customers’ declining income while costs are increasing. But he failed to grasp that low-paying companies like Walmart cause this decreased income across the board, as it sets the standard.

Robert Reich, former U.S. labor secretary, has said: “Walmart is so huge that a wage boost at Walmart would ripple through the entire economy, putting more money in the pockets of low-wage workers. This would help boost the entire economy — including Walmart’s own sales.”