Workers At Southern California Walmart Go On Strike

(Courtesy ForRespect.org)

Even though Walmart employees are not members of a union, dozens of workers from at least one store in Southern California decided this morning to go on strike, in what is reportedly the first such action ever taken by workers of the nation’s largest retailer.

“I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m scared,” one striking employee, a department manager at a Walmart in Pico Rivera, CA, tells Salon.com. “But I think the time has come, so they take notice that these associates are tired of all the issues in the stores, all the management retaliating against you.”

A statement on the website for OUR Walmart, a group of Walmart employees backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union reads:

For over a year, Walmart retail workers have been coming together to call for change at Walmart. Through our worker-led Organization United for Respect at Walmart, workers like myself have been calling on the company to address issues with scheduling, benefits, wages and above all, respect in the workplace.

But instead of being responsive, Walmart has lashed out at us for speaking up. The company is trying to silence and intimidate us through unfair disciplinary actions, cut backs in hours and even firings. We’re on strike to protest these illegal attempts to silence us.

The employees claim that Walmart has been retaliating against workers who attempt to unionize or who are actively speaking out against the company’s treatment of employees. OUR Walmart has filed multiple Unfair Labor Practice grievances with the National Labor Relations Board.

“Those workers who have spoken up about scheduling, pay and benefits – some have been fired, and others have had their hours cut,” a rep for Warehouse Workers United tells NBC Los Angeles.

A rep for Walmart says this is “absolutely not true.”

Speaking to Salon, that same rep downplays the group of activist employees, saying that the unions behind OUR Walmart “are focused on their own agenda… getting more members to join their unions. That gives them more revenue to help fund the political agendas that they have.” He also dismissed the complaints to the NLRB by pointing out that “Unfair Labor Practice charges are similar to lawsuits. Anyone can file them, regardless of whether it’s a valid claim or not. We disagree with those assertions.”

Walmart tells NBC Los Angeles that the striking workers only represent a small portion of the Pico Rivera location’s staff and that the store is still open and fully staffed.

Whether this movement catches fire or is snuffed out remains to be seen.