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AFSCME Stands with Walmart Workers Fighting for a Fair Deal

by Joe Lawrence  |  November 28, 2012

Council 28 members braved torrential rains in Renton, Wash.
AFSCME Council 28 members braved torrential rains in Renton, Wash., to stand with Walmart workers. (Photo courtesy Council 28)

From coast to coast, AFSCME members participated in Walmart Black Friday demonstrations for justice at America’s biggest private-sector employer on what is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.

The retailer’s ruthlessly enforced “everyday low wages” for its own workers has kept hundreds of thousands of its employees on public assistance. Its business practices with suppliers and its distribution network undermine the wages and living standards of those workers and the rest of the country. Walmart routinely retaliates against workers who speak out.

But Walmart employees, at great personal risk, are pushing back. And AFSCME is standing with them. From Secaucus, N.J., throughout Maryland, to Louisville, Indianapolis, Kansas City and St. Paul, and to Portland and Seattle and dozens of other cities, AFSCME marched with Walmart employees and a broad coalition of labor and community groups.

“Walmart’s retaliating against us, they’re trying to silence us, that’s why we’re on strike,” 10-year employee and Laurel, Md., Walmart striker Barbara Elliott told Carl Goldman, executive director of AFSCME Council 26. “All we want is to make enough money to support our families, so we don’t have to go to welfare to get food stamps, so we don’t have to go to welfare to get them medical care, so we can once in a while take our family on trips, like other families. Yet instead of listening to its associates and working with us, Walmart is trying to silence us from speaking out.”

“There’s no place I’d rather be this morning,” replied Goldman. “You’re on the cutting edge, and you’re helping us, too. The more people who are organized means we’re all stronger.”

Goldman committed to getting the word out to his council’s members on the importance of the Walmart struggle.

“When we stand together, they have to listen to us,” Elliott told Goldman. “You give us the courage to keep on going.”

Indiana AFSCME Council 62 member Jason Jones of Local 3730 sees the Walmart fight as raising the public’s awareness of what faces all of working America.

“They know something’s wrong,” he said after joining in the Indianapolis Black Friday actions. “But they don’t know why. This helps them understand it’s about the ability to organize.”

Council 28 members braved torrential rains in Renton, Wash., to make their point. Michele Stelovich of AFSCME Local 1060 sees a direct link between the Walmart workers fight and the fights AFSCME members face.

“We’re not immune from what these workers are facing,” she said. “If we don’t stand with Walmart workers, who will stand with us?”

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