Walmart: Stop Racist Threats Of Violence Against Workers
A Black Friday protest outside of a St. Paul, Minnesota Walmart in 2013. CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dear Walmart Home Office, The members of OUR Walmart Civil Rights are outraged at the behavior of Art Van Riper, a manager from Home Office. It is unacceptable that after making documented racist threats of physical violence that Mr Van Riper is still employed by Walmart. We demand the immediate termination of Mr Van Riper and the reinstatement of all associates who were dismissed from the Richmond, CA store remodeling crew.
Why is this important?
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. More than two years after threatening to lynch Markeith, Art Van Riper still has a job with Walmart. Associates who stood up to Van Riper’s unacceptable conduct have been fired and none rehired by Walmart. In early December, an administrative law judge ruled that Walmart illegally disciplined workers who went on strike because of Van Riper’s behavior. It is unacceptable that Walmart, the country’s largest employer of Black people, would conduct an investigation into this incident and continue to employ Art Van Riper.
By refusing to take action–even in the face of a judge’s ruling– Walmart is complicit in Art Van Riper invoking the traumatic, racist violence of lynching. Walmart must set a precedent that this type of behavior from management is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Walmart must fire Art Van Riper, rehire all the associates who protested the incident and put human resources practices in place to ensure racist threats of violence never again happen in a store. As Demario Hammond, one of Markeith’s coworkers who witnessed Van Riper’s verbal attack and was disciplined for fighting back, puts it, “We grew up learning from our mistakes, but only because when we did something wrong our parents would check us. Managers like Art continue to work at Walmart, and will continue treating associates with disrespect unless Walmart’s upper management or Home Office does something about it. His behavior deserves consequences.”