At least two Walmart workers from Minnesota have "walked off the job" as part of a nationwide strike effort that has spread to 12 cities or states, according to officials with the United Food & Commercial Workers' Making a Change at Walmart campaign.
Neither of the two striking Minnesota Walmart "associates" (as Walmart's retail workers are called), is from the store in West St. Paul. "Not that I'm aware of," said a store manager today who identified himself only as Daniel.
The striking Minnesotans work at Walmart stores in Apple Valley and Sauk Center, UCFW spokesperson Janna Pea said by phone Tuesday from Bentonville, AK, where workers, including the two Minnesotans, were gathering for an organizing action today at Walmart's corporate headquarters.
'Finally Decided Someone Needs to Speak Up'
The Apple Valley Walmart associate, who identified himself only as Gabriel, said he traveled to Bentonville Tuesday to "come together with my coworkers" and "help them get their ideas heard, get Walmart to start listening."
Gabriel said he's 24, has been with Walmart for nearly two years, and works part time for $9 an hour. He said he would like to see more full time work available, with increased benefits and more predictable work schedules. He called himself "conservative" and said he's leery of unions ("I've never really been that type"), but took action out of concern for coworkers.
"For me, I can deal with it. I'm helping out others' situations. They're caught between a rock and a hard place," Gabriel said. "They can't afford to speak up. I finally decided someone needs to speak up for them."
Action Planned Today
The Huffington Post reported that 88 workers from 28 various stores went on strike Tuesday. Some are members of Organization United for Respect — or "OUR Walmart" — who support the recent movement, a UFCW spokesperson noted.
Walmart workers who are not unionized have been complaining about low pay and a lack of benefits for awhile, according to the Huffington Post report. The members of OUR Walmart are coming together today to announce to provoke change for Walmart employees who have expressed that they shouldn't be silenced just for speaking out for better jobs and a stronger community.
Warehouse workers plan today to join striking workers from the Los Angeles and Dallas areas to call for change on their jobs.
Strike or Stunt?
One labor expert told the New York Times it was hard to know exactly what to call the job action:
Julius G. Getman, a labor expert at the University of Texas School of Law, said it can be hard to draw a line between what is a strike and what is publicity. He said the union and OUR Walmart were searching for ways to get Wal-Mart to improve wages and conditions when they see how hard it would be to unionize even a handful of Walmart stores.
Daniel, the West St. Paul store manager, said that "not to my knowledge" had workers from the store gone on strike in the past.
For Gabriel, the Apple Valley worker, the trip to Bentonville with OUR Walmart is the culmination of six to eight months or "reading up and seeing what they're about.
"It's my first time," he said. "They're trying to do something really cool. ... It looks like it's gaining traction."