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I really hope none of you went to Walmart today

I’m with Tyrone Robinson, the underpaid Walmart employee who publicly walked out today.

Tyrone Robinson, the lone worker and protester from Chicago’s Walmart on the far south side of the city, estimates he earns about $15,000 a year doing produce management. One of the demands of the strikes is that workers be able to earn at least $25,000 a year if they work full time.

"My ends ain’t meeting," he said. "My hours have gone down to about 30 hours a week, and I make $8.25."

Robinson, a small African-American man buzzing with nervous energy, was wearing his bright green OUR Walmart shirt and a Bulls cap. (OUR stands for Organization United for Respect.) Tears left a trail down his face on the bitterly cold early morning.

"I know there are other Walmart workers in there that feel like me, but they are just terrified of retaliation because Walmart told them that if you walk off, you will be terminated immediately," he said.

"I want to let them know if I can do it, get up and speak up about what you deserve," Robinson said. "We work hard, we get here on time, we do what we got to do. I feel very proud to do this, and once I return I’ll tell them about it."

When you kill unions, you kill labor, and when you kill labor, you kill people.

I will be looking for Tyrone Robinson’s name in the news tomorrow. I hope he still has his job…but I don’t have much hope for Walmart.

Comments

  1. says

    $8.25 an hour? Holy Fuck Batman! I worked produce at a grocery store 20 years ago (almost to the month) and I made a little more than that! And I wasn’t even an assistant manager or anything. I mean, JUMPING JESUS ON A POGO STICK! That’s horrible. Just cost of living increases should have that number in the low teens!

    WARBLGARBL!

  2. Francisco Bacopa says

    I hope this as successful as the union action against Walmart a few years ago in East Texas. The union members there didn’t get what they wanted, they got something better they convinced Walmart that opening up better meat departments that did cutting and grinding on site was never gonna happen.

    And don’t be shocked about hour cuts and low wages. I was in retail management a few years ago. I had to cut people all the time, constant pressure to hold hours low. And if you are a salaried/exempt manager, the labor laws do not apply to you and you will end up making an effective wage of about $7.10 an hour some weeks because you will work so many hours doing all the stuff that isn’t getting done because you had to cut payroll so much.

  3. Jeremy Shaffer says

    I tend to stay away from all stores on Black Friday (other than book stores- I know they’re unlikely to be crowded in my neck of the woods). However, I would have stayed out of Walmart today anyway. I really hope everything works out for the employees in this. I wish I could avoid Walmart altogether but they are pretty much the only game where I live to buy groceries unless I want to drive a good twenty to thirty minutes.

  4. thunk, cold air advection says

    Note that $8.25 is minimum wage in Illinois.

    I guess if they could pay lower, they would.

  5. thewhollynone says

    I have been boycotting Walmart for years because of the way they treat their employees and because they sell products made in sweatshops outside of the USA. Without honest unions and decent federal labor laws poor working people have no chance at all.

  6. grumpyoldfart says

    Kids in the Philippines make more than that diving off the wharf for coins thrown into the water from the tourist ships.

  7. Akira MacKenzie says

    This afternoon, I went to local McDonalds with my very-Republican father and his twin brother. The restaurant’s flat screen TV, as always, was tuned to Fox News which was covering the Black Friday strikes against Walmart. Of course, my dad and uncle felt obliged to comment.

    To hear them tell it, the dread tyrant, Obama The Marxist, is going to use his dictatorial powers to force the oppressed owners of Walmart to accept the rule of the thuggish unions who will allow workers to laze about will making more than they worth! (Apparently earning a living wage or higher is a privilige to conservatives.)

    Yeah, I fucking only wish he had that power, not to mention the will to use it.

  8. robinjohnson says

    It’s odd that the people who insist that a free market means companies have the right to treat people like shit, and if they were worth more they’d get a better job elsewhere, and it’s tough but that’s just the free market being all free-markety… are the same people who hate the idea of workers like this making the same kind of decisions from their end.

  9. JoeBuddha says

    Never shop at Walmart. If I did, however, I’d stop. Realize that this kind of behavior was the reason unions were formed in the first place. Here’s hoping that the current middle/lower class can find the cojones to hold their feet to the fire until they’re ready to treat their workers like humans.

  10. shouldbeworking says

    Oh crap. Yet another reason to not shop at Walmart. The blasted list is too long already.

  11. chigau (無) says

    Ing
    I meant:
    “Is walmart a job-creator in the same sense as Mitt Romney (for example) is a job-creator?”

  12. Menyambal --- in flagrante delicto says

    I used to boycott WalMart, but my current living arrangement makes that very difficult. It looks like I need to make the effort. (Hmm, if I compare Walmart to Chik-fil-A, maybe?)

  13. says

    I won’t blame poor people for shopping at Walmart. They seem to have few choices, whether it’s transport or cost problems. But anyone who can boycott them, should. (There are none in Australia, according to wikipedia, so easy for me.)

  14. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I would like to avoid Walmart, but two things get in the way. The price of coffee, which is a few dollars less per larger container than the equivalent at the other grocery stores in the area, and that with their online presence, I can see if they have what the Redhead requires. Most recently, light comforters and Vellux blankets at half the cost of their competitors….

  15. machintelligence says

    chigau @ 18
    Look at it this way: if you can replace 3 full time (40 hour/week) workers with 4 part timers (30 hours/week) you have created a job.
    Plus look what you have saved in health care and benefit costs!

  16. chigau (無) says

    machintelligence #22

    Look at it this way: if you can replace 3 full time (40 hour/week) workers with 4 part timers (30 hours/week) you have created a job.
    Plus look what you have saved in health care and benefit costs!

    By George!
    I think xe’s got it!
    [eat the rich]

  17. katenrala says

    I only ever had a job in retail until I got sick and lost my arm to cancer. The most I ever made was $9.72 after working up from $5.75. I had a bachelor’s degree and was still working retail as the economy just got worse and worse after I graduated. I never made more than $15,000 a year in my life and I feel that I completely wasted my life. I wanted to kill myself over my lack of a future years before I got sick and I had a suicide plan and everything.

    I intended to go out into the desert and find a place to hide my body from anyone looking for me and shoot myself.

    Now I’m terminal and unhappy and hurting. I want to live and reach the goals I had in life, draw my comics, have a house, adopt a kid, but nooooo! And I had to give my few adult years to greedy companies who worked me over for chump change and didn’t even hand over the insurance money I paid for when I got ill, my $20,000 catastrophic, they simply said “see ya asshole!” and sent me out the door. Not that $20,000 would’ve made a difference, but I was supposed to get that money.

    I hate life so much and can’t remember the past without getting very angry.

    These days I plan on overdosing on my pain meds and sleeping pills when my time comes to just drift away. I’m ready and have accepted my mortality because I had to, but I’m so sad over my plans I’ll never see completed and happiness I’ll never experience.

    I really hate my life.

  18. says

    “Is walmart a job-creator in the same sense as Mitt Romney (for example) is a job-creator?”

    Ah. “yes very much so”

    as to above about the price of coffee and that. I think we have to treat Walmart like a reverse vaccination thing. If you can at all afford to shop else where please do, such bargains come at a Faustian price. Those of us who can afford to avoid it should do so to help offset those of us would would have to shop there.

  19. evilDoug says

    “they are pretty much the only game where I live to buy groceries unless I want to drive a good twenty to thirty minutes”, and other comments regarding proximity

    I saw something on TV several years ago about the effects of Walmart moving into smaller communities. Often the result was that small local stores were driven out of business, and poor people who used to be able to walk to a local store suddenly found themselves having to make major treks for day to day needs. This was/is particularly devastating for people who live where there is no public transportation.

    I went into a Home Depot today (spent $4). When they first showed up in Canada, as Aikenhead’s, they had predatory prices, and drove some long-established Canadian hardware and home-improvement stores out of business, just in the style of Walmart. With the market place swept of competition, they raised their prices quite dramatically. I have no idea how they treat their employees.

  20. says

    I have a confession to make. Though I hate WalMart and once determined to avoid it completely, have broken down in recent years and have shopped there several times (most recently last week when I bought a BluRay player). They are the only store of a similar kind in the area (now that our local Zellers is on its last legs). I hereby renew my dedication to the boycott.

  21. Menyambal --- in flagrante delicto says

    katenrala, you have my sympathy. Corporations have no sympathy, they are indeed the image of the beast.

    I got a college degree, and enjoyed the getting of it very much, but now I can’t pay for it and I can’t use it. No one will hire, and I don’t know if I could work a day if they did. Finances are shot. Dunno what’s going to happen, but I’m going to keep trying, I guess.

    Sounds like you are in the shite, indeed. I can’t say much except that I’d give you a hug if I could.

    Thanks for your story. Hope it gets better, or at least ends well.

  22. outaworkee says

    Walmart also does not advertise locally through print very often. Each store sets its price to what the market will bear. Higher competition, lower prices. Lower (eliminated) competition, higher prices. But the wages stay the same. I avoid them whenever possible.

  23. Menyambal --- in flagrante delicto says

    Walmart also has a price-match guarantee. They will match any other store’s advertised prices—all you have to do is show them the competitor’s ad. So Wally doesn’t have to do the market research, or to change prices to match sales, or to give the low price to all their shoppers, but they effectively prevent anyone else in town from advertising or competing.

  24. rpjohnston says

    30 hours/week, 52 weeks/yr and 8.25 hourly rate = 12870/yr, not 15k. Unless I’m missing something he’s making even less than the article states.

    Personally, I work at Target, overnight logistics. I pull 36-40 hours a week making 9.50/hr base rate (it goes to 10.50 after midnight; I go in at 11:00, my shift ends at 6:30 but I stay to 8:30, the latest I’m allowed). Team Members like myself are allowed no more than 40 hours/week and are considered part-time even if we work 40 hours (and overnight, we do.) From what I hear people hired just a few years ago had a higher starting rate than I make after midnight.

    I’d sure love to be making 25k/yr but I don’t think that’s going to happen =/

  25. Tony ∞The Trolling Queer Duck∞ says

    Katenrala:
    I’m so sorry for everything you’ve gone through. If you ever need to chat with people who won’t judge you and will offer support and/or comfort-if desired-please check out The Lounge here at Pharyngula.

  26. John Morales says

    [OT]

    katenrala, you sure have good reason to be bitter, and I too offer my sympathy to you.

    I wish I could encourage you to persevere, but the best I can do is to note that (as an atheist) I reckon this is your one and only life, so I hope you’ll take that into consideration before taking any irrevocable action.

    (However it goes, I wish you the best, and may you know when the time is come)

  27. fullyladenswallow says

    Katenrala:

    Very sorry to hear of your experiences and can relate to much of it. My sympathy goes out to you.

    My best hopes and wishes go out to Tyrone Robinson for sure.

    I have been looking for work for the last 18 months due to a layoff triggered by the buy-out of my company by a larger concern where my position essentially went to China. I’ve tried really hard to not be bitter or to lash out, but after having to go through my 401k, savings, unemployment and numerous interviews that have dead-ended (probably due to my gray hair), I feel I’ve no place to put my anger and frustration- all because someone at the top decided that a stable, billion dollar company wasn’t competitive enough and that the “stepping-down” CEO would get his golden parachute. The only slight respite I get is watching Sen. Bernie Sanders (I- Vermont) lay into folks like Mr. Greenspan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBnKh6B2cMw.
    Suddenly, moving to Vermont looks pretty good to me.

  28. McC2lhu doesn't want to know what you did there. says

    It’s a shame that Tyrone was the only one with a bravery gene. I knew the intimidation would work, though, because the job market is weak and some people have no other skills. More demonstration of how a worsening education system weakens the capability of the everyday Joe and Jill to stand up to corporate fascists like the Wally World owners. The whole freakin’ system is outta order.

    Hmm. They should use that line in a movie.

  29. Old At Heart says

    Tyrone won’t have a job coming back. Walmart has closed entire stores to make a point before. That family kneads gold into their bread but can’t spare for medical benefits of the working class. It’s a shame, since pretty much anyone who can stop going to Walmart already has… Whelp, off to Amazon, our “equivalent but less guilt-inducing” alternative!

  30. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    Don’t be too hard on those of us who couldn’t do a walkout.

    Granted, I ended up having Thursday and Friday off of work anyway, due to the fact that the 17 hand gelding managed to kick me as he bucked and ran… drove my hand into my stomach. Nothing broken, and thankfully no internal injuries, just a badly bruised and swollen hand and bruising on the inside of the abdominal wall. I go back to work today with some stiff and purple looking fingers.

    It nauseates me to see all the bullshit the company pulls. I white-knuckle every time I see misinformation released about the goals of unions and of OUR Walmart to the employees. I want to cry when I see the people who have worked there for decades and talk about “the Walmart Family”. I likely will be “coached” for having to miss work on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, despite my doctor’s note, since you are only allowed 3 absences in a rolling six month period, and I had a couple of others already. My hours fluctuate wildly, from 40 one week to 20 other weeks, and any time I have over 32 for more than a couple of weeks I have to sign a paper saying I understand I will not get full-time benefits.

    I even have a UFCW withdrawal card, from back in high school. My parents were Teamsters; my mom was chief steward.

    It’s the only job I could get.

    I have two kids at home, one of whom is disabled. One kid in college.

    I would love to walk out, take a stand. Just as I would love to be able to only buy ethically grown products made locally. Survival sadly has to come before ethics.

    And it hurts. Believe me, it hurts.

  31. bryanfeir says

    I’m one of those people who refuses to give anything to Wal*Mart. Then again, I live in Toronto with enough choice that I can afford to do that.

    I’ve seen a number of people arguing over the years that Wal*Mart is the single biggest recipient of ‘government handouts’ in the U.S., simply because they can pay their employees less than a living wage knowing that the government will pick up the slack… and that half the government money ends up coming back to them through said employees using their food stamps to buy food at Wal*Mart thanks to the 10% employee discount cards.

    http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/14559628/article-Let-s-kick-Wal-Mart-off-welfare

    To those who enjoy Wal-Mart’s ample profits, it’s welfare check money laundering.

  32. Rey Fox says

    One of my friends said she heard on NPR that paying full-time Walmart workers 25K a year would cost customers an extra 15 cents per shopping trip. Not sure where the citation for that is.

  33. Tony ∞The Trolling Queer Duck∞ says

    Spamamander:
    I’d like to think most people here are not going to criticize someone for not walking out on Black Friday. I sure as hell won’t.

  34. Pteryxx says

    via Salon:

    To put this in context, Gawker recently highlighted a Demos study that says that raising the salary of all full-time workers at large retailers to $25,000 per year would lift more than 700,000 people out of poverty, at a cost of only a 1 percent price increase for customers.

    http://www.salon.com/2012/11/20/walmarts_black_friday_showdown/

    From the Demos article:

    Our study finds that:

    The cost of the wage increase amounts to $20.8 billion, or just 1 percent of the $2.17 trillion in total annual sales by large retailers. Alternatively, it represents 6 percent of payroll for the retail sector overall, or 10 percent for those firms with more than 1000 employees.

    http://www.demos.org/publication/retails-hidden-potential-how-raising-wages-would-benefit-workers-industry-and-overall-ec

    I haven’t found a cite for the 15-cents figure yet; it sounds like a snappified version of the 1 percent (if the average shopping trip costs $15…)

  35. Pteryxx says

    whoops, found it, in the same Demos study:

    Our study finds that:

    If retailers pass half of the costs of a wage raise onto their customers, the average household would pay just 15 cents more per shopping trip—or $17.73 per year.
    If firms pass on 25 percent of the wage costs onto their customers, shoppers would spend just 7 cents more per shopping trip, or $8.87 per year.
    Higher income households, who spend more, would absorb a larger share of the cost. Per shopping trip, high income households would spend 18 cents more, for a total of $36.80 per year. Low-income households would spend just 12 additional cents on their shopping list, or $24.87 per year.

  36. McC2lhu doesn't want to know what you did there. says

    If the owners of franchises like Wally World had any ethics, instead of just being wankers for their own personal bottom line, they would have given a decent living wage to workers as part of their business plan from the very beginning. It’s because of this complete lack of empathy and concern for the people that make their shitty company work that I will never set food inside the place. Scumbags with no appreciation for the work of others, especially when they profit immensely from it, deserve nothing but seem to get everything. Unchecked capitalism run amok seems to work that way, and far too many US shoppers, as well as voters, seem blissfully unaware that they continue to support it against their own best interests.

    On the flip side, I notice the press is reporting that Obama did his shopping on Small Business Saturday instead. Good thing he did. I had the embarrassing realization I didn’t know there was such a thing.

  37. Furr-a-Bruin says

    I am fortunate that I live in an area both with plenty of retail options and no VoldeMarts within 10 miles – so for me to say I’m going to “boycott” them would be nothing but meaningless patting myself on the back. I try to patronize retail businesses that treat their employees decently.

    I feel for people in communities where other reasonable options have been driven out of business by a massive corporation that can afford to run a store at a loss to kill any competition.

    People like Mr. Robinson give me hope that things might improve – though I have no illusion that any change for the better will be swift.

  38. felicis says

    I went – but I stood out in the rain with the rest of the protestors, holding a sign asking for justice for workers.

    I didn’t shop there – nor do we generally. I think that in the past decade my wife and I have spent under $100 over all of our WalMart shopping trips. But we are lucky enough to live in Portland, OR – where it’s actually pretty easy to avoid the box stores and shop local for everything.

  39. kayden says

    @2, Good for you Caine. I will do my best to avoid Walmart. I don’t understand how Walmart can square giving its CEO $18 million per year while paying its associates less than $25,000 per year.

  40. leighshryock says

    Many in my family are too poor to shop elsewhere, and the only competitors that exist within 15 miles are other national chains (Krogers, Harvest Foods).

    There are no small business grocery chains within the city limits of where I live.

    There is a regional chain that I don’t really shop at (Harp’s), but I cannot find out much about their labor practices. I suppose the best place to find out is Harp’s employees, but, I don’t know any and don’t like to pry (and if the labor practices are bad, they might outright lie to me, thinking I’m some kind of plant trying to find dissent).

  41. Nes says

    $8.25? Wow. I’m a nobody stockroom peon for a competing big box retailer, and I make more than that. I think that’s the base pay for my position now, after they adjusted it for inflation a couple years ago.

  42. bradleybetts says

    “Walmart told them that if you walk off, you will be terminated immediately”

    I assume this is a legal strike? In that case, Walmart can’t legally terminate anyone for being involved.

  43. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I assume this is a legal strike?

    For it to be considered a strike by the NLRB, several legal conditions must be met for such action to be protected. Just joining a union and then walking off the job doesn’t suffice to meet those requirements. You can be fired. And Walmart never lets it get to having to recognize a strike.