Several dozen Wal-Mart workers in Southern California staged a one-day strike on Thursday, according to workers and union officials, a move that culminated in a rally of some 250 workers and supporters in front of a Wal-Mart store.
The strikers, who union officials said came from nine Wal-Mart stores in the Los Angeles area, said they were mainly protesting against the management’s frequent retaliation against employees who spoke up about working conditions.
Several of the workers, who said this was the first-ever strike against Walmart in the US, also said they were protesting low wages and short hours.
Manuela Rosales, 25, who works in the cellphone department of the Pico Rivera store, said she walked out on Thursday, missing her afternoon shift, because “when we speak out, they cut my hours in retaliation and they have me pull pallets, which is very hard work.” She added, “I’m a single mom and I can't afford them cutting my hours.”
Rosales said about 30 of the 100-odd workers from her store’s morning shift walked out on Thursday.
Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, which has recently announced plans to open stores in India after the government liberalised foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, sought to play down the job action.
“You can count on less than one hand the number of associates that we are aware of who left their post to participate in the rally,” said Dan Fogleman, the Wal-Mart spokesman, describing Thursday’s action as a rally and not a strike. “That’s very few when you consider the more than 12,000 people that we employ in LA County.”
The workers, who are not unionised, maintained that they were striking against unfair labour practices, specifically illegal retaliation, a claim that could protect them from being punished for walking out.
Fogleman claimed the rally was just the union’s ‘latest publicity stunt’, and denied this was the first strike against Wal-Mart in the US, pointing to a 2006 protest by 100 workers at a Florida store. New York Times