Walmart Employees Seek Respect, Higher Pay & Better Working Conditions

We all know that workers at Walmart are ill-treated. Low pay, part-time hours, and few benefits are just some of the hardships they endure. But not everyone knows that Walmart workers are standing up and pushing back. Walmart workers deserve and need our support!

Workers continue to struggle. The news reports in the box (below right) provide recent information.

Wages Increases: Good for Workers and Employers

As described in a recent UCC Witness for Justice commentary, a recent "experiment" at Walmart has shown the value -- to workers and employers -- of increasing low wages. After being pressured by workers and their allies, in April, 2015, Walmart announced a pay increase. Wages for the lowest-paid employees were raised to $9 an hour with the possibility of $10 an hour upon completion of a training course. Walmart also built 200 training centers, established clearer paths for advancement, and hourly workers were promised more flexible, regular, and predictable schedules. Management hoped the wage increase and other changes would boost employees’ commitment to their jobs and increase their productivity.

It seems to have worked! Now the customers consider over 70% of Walmart stores to be “clean, fast, and friendly,” up from just 16% before the pay increase. Sales are up in Walmart stores while, overall, general merchandise retailers have seen sales decline.

Walmart’s profits have yet to show a similar improvement. But the changes are incomplete; much more remains to be done. Pay is still too low, the scheduling improvements haven’t been implemented in most stores, and many part-time workers are still seeking additional hours.

But this pay increase does show one thing: raising the pay of low-wage workers is a win-win situation, better for workers and better for employers.

For a number of years prior to the wage increase in 2015, Walmart workers and their allies applied steady pressure on the company for improved wages and working conditions. For example, on June 4, 2014, workers in many cities across the country held a one-day strike for better wages and working conditions.

And OUR Walmart members continue to ask Walmart to publicly commit to wages of at least $25,000 per year.

Follow developments in the campaign to make Walmart a better place to work at Making Change at Walmart.

Latest Developments in Walmart Workers' Struggle for Better Jobs

How Did Walmart Get Cleaner Stores and Higher Sales? It Paid Its People More by Neil Irwin, New York Times, October 15, 2016

Walmart workers strike in major cities by Patrick M. Sheridan, CNN Money, June 4, 2014.

Report: Walmart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion In Public Assistance by Clare O'Connor, Forbes. April 15, 2014 

In Wake Of Protests, Walmart Workers Find More Hours Within Reach by Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post Business, April, 7, 2014. Walmart has made some improvements to benefit employees.

Walmart Yearly Meeting Follows a Narrow Script by Stephanie Clifford, New York Times, June 7, 2013.  Walmart workers attend the annual shareholders’ meeting and speak out.

Walmart Workers Launch First-Ever 'Prolonged Strikes' Today by Josh Eidelson, The Nation, May 28, 2013

The Bribery Aisle: How Walmart Got Its Way in Mexico by David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab, New York Times, December 17, 2012.

Walmart’s everyday low wages by Christine Owens, Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 21, 2012.   Walmart workers who are protesting their low pay, poor working conditions, and retaliation by managers are “some of the brightest hope for challenging the downward tide in job quality we’ve witnessed over the past decades.” 

Walmart labor protests grow, organizers say by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times October 5, 2012.

Walmart workers stage a walkout in California by Steven Greenhouse,  New York Times October 5, 2012.

The World of Walmart

Walmart is the largest corporation in the world and the largest private employer in the United States. It has the power and influence to set a standard for fair workplace practices. Instead, Walmart engages in systematic abuses of workers (more details):

  • low wages
  • few benefits
  • discrimination
  • failure to pay employees for all hours worked
  • anti-union behavior
  • use of sweatshops to produce the items the store sells
  • abuse of immigrants
  • displacement of smaller, local stores

Our God is a God of justice, a justice that extends even to the workplace and the big-box store. We are called to seek justice for Walmart workers.

Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart)

Workers at Walmart are coming together to seek respect and dignity in their workplace. Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) is a group of Walmart employees who are seeking change at the world’s largest retailer. They are seeking support and endorsements of their efforts from congregations and other organizations and individuals. Endorse the OUR Walmart effort at Making Change at Walmart.  

The webpage, Walmart at 50: How Making Change at Walmart Today Can Rebuild America, gives the stories of Walmart associates (employees), warehouse workers, customers, and community and global allies. This multi-faceted, interactive project will highlight people from across America and around the globe sharing how Walmart has impacted their lives and communities and why Walmart must change so the next 50 years will be different. (Walmart is 50 years old this year.)

What You Can Do

  • Hold a prayer vigil calling for dignity and respect for Walmart workers. Interfaith Worker Justice has provided materials that are useful for the vigil.

  • Read a two-page resource describing many of Walmart's abusive practices. You may also download this version, which includes endnotes.

  • Download and use commitment forms from Interfaith Worker Justice to declare you support for Walmart workers.

  • Read the UC News cover story on Walmart.

  • Let us know what you are doing to call Walmart to more responsible practices. Stories (up to 300 words in length) and pictures will be posted on this site.

Contact Info

Edith Rasell, Ph.D.
Minister for Economic Justice
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115