Two Walmart workers from Minnesota, one of them from Apple Valley, have "walked off the job" as part of a nationwide strike effort that has spread to 12 cities or states, according to officials with the United Food & Commercial Workers' Making a Change at Walmart campaign.
UCFW spokesperson Janna Pea said by phone Tuesday from Bentonville, Ark., that the workers, including the two Minnesotans, were gathering for an organizing action at Walmart's corporate headquarters today.
'Finally Decided Someone Needs to Speak Up'
The Apple Valley Walmart associate, who would only identify himself as Gabriel, said he traveled to Bentonville to "come together with my coworkers" and "help them get their ideas heard, get Walmart to start listening."
Gabriel said he's 24, has been with Walmart for nearly two years, and works part time for $9 an hour. He said he would like to see more full time work available, with increased benefits and more predictable work schedules. He called himself "conservative" and said he's leery of unions ("I've never really been that type"), but took action out of concern for coworkers.
"For me, I can deal with it. I'm helping out others' situations. They're caught between a rock and a hard place," Gabriel said. "They can't afford to speak up. I finally decided someone needs to speak up for them."
The Huffington Post reported that 88 workers from 28 various stores went on strike Tuesday. (The other Minnesota store affected is in Sauk Centre.) Some are members of Organization United for Respect — or "OUR Walmart" — who support the recent movement, a UFCW spokesperson noted.
Walmart workers are not unionized, but some have been complaining about low pay and a lack of benefits for awhile, according to the Huffington Post report.
Warehouse workers plan to join striking workers from the Los Angeles and Dallas areas today to call for change on their jobs.
Strike or Stunt?
One labor expert told the New York Times it was hard to know exactly what to call the job action:
Julius G. Getman, a labor expert at the University of Texas School of Law, said it can be hard to draw a line between what is a strike and what is publicity. He said the union and OUR Walmart were searching for ways to get Wal-Mart to improve wages and conditions when they see how hard it would be to unionize even a handful of Walmart stores.
A manager at the Fridley Walmart, who would only identify himself as Scott, said he hadn't heard about a strike through company channels as he would normally expect to.
"Every year there's a certain day [when union organizers make a push to organize Walmart]," he said, adding that he thought that annual effort was this week.
For Gabriel, the Apple Valley worker, the trip to Bentonville with OUR Walmart is the culmination of six to eight months or "reading up and seeing what they're about.
"It's my first time," he said. "They're trying to do something really cool. ... It looks like it's gaining traction."