By André Campos for Mongabay – Products derived from timber extracted by workers living in conditions analogous to slave labor in Brazil are connected to a complex business network linked to the U.S. market – possibly reaching the shelves of large retailers and being used in renovation of landmarks – according to a new investigation conducted by Brazilian news outlet Repórter Brasil. After purchasing from suppliers held liable for that crime by the Brazilian government, local traders exported timber to companies like USFloors, which supplies the retail chain Lowe’s, as well as Timber Holdings, which supplied timber for construction projects at Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
By Melissa Hellman for Yes! Magazine. For two months in 2012, longtime Iola, Kansas, resident Mary Ross trudged through the sweltering heat, waving gnats from her view as she walked door to door with a petition. It was the hottest summer since moving there with her family about 30 years ago, but Ross was determined to gather signatures requesting a grocery store be established in the small rural town of fewer than 6,000 people. Iola had lost its last independent grocery store four years earlier, shortly after the Wal-mart Supercenter—with its own expansive aisles—came to town and drove out all of the competition. “I live in a small town. That was my choice,” she says. But since Iola’s three smaller grocery stores went out of business, she has to drive 8 to 20 miles to find healthy food choices and the specific ingredients for her home-cooked meals.
By Annelise Orleck for The Conversation – Pico Rivera is a dusty working-class Latino suburb of Los Angeles. After the school district, Wal-Mart is the city’s largest employer and the source of 10 percent of its tax revenue. More than 500 families in the town depend on income from the store. The town is also the epicenter of activism by Wal-Mart workers in the United States. Walmart associates have been fighting for four years to pressure the world’s largest private employer to grant its workers decent conditions, a living wage and regular hours.
By Dave Jamieson for The Huffington Post – In 2013, Janet Sparks and five co-workers went on strike at a Walmart store in Baker, Louisiana. The group rode in a caravan to Bentonville, Arkansas, taking their grievances to the company’s shareholder meeting. The experience of walking off the job in protest was exhilarating, but also unnerving. “It’s always a scary thing for a worker to go up against the largest employer in the U.S.,” Sparks, 55, said. “There are co-workers around you who are afraid. But we believed in what we were doing.”
By Dave Jamieson for Huffington Post. Walmart broke the law when it fired 16 workers who went on strike in 2013, a judge ruled on Thursday, January 21st. The judge ordered Walmart to offer the workers their jobs back within two weeks and make them whole for any lost wages. Walmart has the right to appeal the ruling, and a company spokesman told The Huffington Post that the retailer still believes it acted lawfully and will “pursue all of our options.” In a lengthy decision, Geoffrey Carter, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board, ruled that the strikes were protected by law, and that Walmart had no right to discipline workers for taking part in them. Carter also ordered Walmart to expunge any disciplinary infractions against those employees, and to read a notice in the stores where they worked informing employees of their rights under the law.
By Dave Johnson for Campaign For America’s Future – Some call this the “Walmart Model.” One result of this model is that the six “Walmart heirs” are so wealthy from inherited stock that they have more wealth than 42 percent of all Americans combined. That figure is from 2012. It may be worse now. The billionaires created by stripping the rest of our wages (and taxes needed to fund our government) use the wealth gained from this model to influence our government and keep the game going. For example, the Walton heirs helped fund a drive to repeal inheritance taxes.
By Susan Berfield for Bloomberg Businessweek – In the autumn of 2012, when Walmart first heard about the possibility of a strike on Black Friday, executives mobilized with the efficiency that had built a retail empire. Walmart has a system for almost everything: When there’s an emergency or a big event, it creates a Delta team. The one formed that September included representatives from global security, labor relations, and media relations. For Walmart, the stakes were enormous. The billions in sales typical of a Walmart Black Friday were threatened. The company’s public image, especially in big cities where its power and size were controversial, could be harmed.
By Pete Dolack for Systemic Disorder – As ruthless as Wal-Mart is, Wall Street has decided the retailer is not ruthless enough. Incredible though it might seem, financiers have been punishing Wal-Mart in part because the company has raised its minimum wage to $9 an hour. Plans to increase slightly abysmally low pay and invest more money on Internet operations have Wall Street in an ornery mood because profits might be hurt. Is Wal-Mart Stores Inc. about to cease being a going concern? Hardly. For the first three quarters of this year, Wal-Mart has racked up a net income of US$11.8 billion — and the holiday season isn’t here yet. For the five previous fiscal years, the retailer reported a composite net income of $80.2 billion.
By David Moberg for In These Times – After four years as a growing, thriving voice of workers at Walmart, the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) re-launched itself on Thursday. Originally a legally independent, non-union worker organization that the United Food and Commercial Workers founded and funded, OUR Walmart will now have a different, still to-be-defined tie to the UFCW—which will continue to publicize how Walmart as an employer and a business presence within most American communities has pushed down work standards and often taken from communities as much as it contributes. Its goals remain much the same as before: $15 an hour minimum pay; full-time, consistent hours; no more unfair “coachings” (a Walmart form of discipline) and terminations; and action by the company to improve racial justice and women’s rights and to “address climate change.”
By Sarah Jaffe in Truthout – Early Friday morning June 5 in the Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Venanzi Luna told her story to the Walmart shareholders meeting. Her image was projected in front of her on massive screens that had just been magnifying the live performance of R&B star Brian McKnight. “I’m here to urge you to support proposal number nine, because our board of directors needs an independent chair committed to the highest standards of integrity,” Luna said. “Under our current, NON-independent chair, our company has suffered a series of governance failures – alleged bribery and a cover-up, repeated violations of environmental regulations and breaches of labor law, both at home and abroad. I know about this firsthand.”
Wal-Mart is facing questions tonight after CBS13 learns the company draws its bottled water from a Sacramento water district during California’s drought. According to the label, the water comes from the Sacramento Municipal Water Supply. This comes on the heels of Starbucks opting to move sourcing and production of its Ethos bottled water from California to Pennsylvania. While the label reads Great Value, the fine print reveals the bottled water is anything but a deal, especially for Sacramento residents. “Either they were unaware, uninformed or unintentionally did this,” said public relations expert Doug Elmets. “It could be all three of those. Whatever it is, it’s a bad move and they need to correct it and they need to do it quickly.” According to its own labeling, the water in the gallon jugs appears to come from Sacramento’s water supply.
The Pico Rivera workers and the labor group OUR Walmart say it looks awfully suspicious that the closures just happened to hit a store that’s been a center of worker organizing, and they’re claiming retaliation: The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which backs OUR Walmart, is listed as the filing party on the NLRB complaint, which claims that Wal-Mart targeted the Pico Rivera store because it has been “the center of concerted action by [workers] to improve wages and working conditions for all Walmart [workers] around the country.” The Pico Rivera store was the site of OUR Walmart’s first strike in 2012; workers at that location have participated in strikes and civil disobedience ever since.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) said it would raise entry-level wages to $9 an hour, a 24 percent increase from the U.S. minimum wage that some employees now earn, succumbing to longstanding pressure to pay its workforce more. The world’s largest retailer said the increases would cost it $1 billion and impact 500,000 employees, or about 40 percent of its workforce, although the hike falls short of what some labor groups have been agitating for. The move comes amid a growing debate in the U.S. over the widening gulf between the rich and low-income workers. Wal-Mart has been a prime target of critics who say its low-wages and inflexible scheduling are a big part of the problem. The White House praised the move, pointing out that 17 states have already moved to boost their minimum wages above the federal level of $7.25 an hour and renewing its call on the Republican Congress to boost the wage on a national level.
Markeith Washington was working on the overnight remodeling crew at the Richmond, CA Walmart Store which was supervised by Art Van Riper. Van Riper was notorious among associates for screaming insults, calling the crew “a bunch of lazy ass workers.” During one night of work in September of 2012 while Markeith was tying a rope around his own waist to aid in moving a heavy counter, Van Riper said to him, “if it was up to me, I’d put that rope around your neck.” Shocked at this hateful comment, Markeith simply responded, “That’s not right.” Markeith and his fellow remodel crew associates were understandably outraged by Van Riper’s threat. They bravely joined together to demand discipline for Van Riper and respect on the job by taking actions including talking to management, sending a letter to Walmart and even participating in a work stoppage strike.