Published on libcom.org (http://libcom.org)
Walmart workers walk out on wildcat
Created 19/10/2006 - 08:09
Workers at a Wal-Mart in Florida went out on wildcat earlier this week over scheduling arrangements. According to both workers and the company, this is the first such action against the company ever to occur in the US.
Around 200 workers, or close to the entire shift, walked out of the store in Hialeah Gardens at 9am Monday. A schedule was posted which cut hours from 40 to nine per week for some mebers of staff, this was later said to be an error by management, but came alongside many changes to working conditions - including cuts to full-time hours for many staff, and an expectation that staff would be available for shifts 24 hours per day - with hours decided by a computer at centra offices. Around 50-60 workers were still protesting outside the store that afternoon, with one holding a hand-made sign saying: "Wal-Mart, we are human, we want respect."
Unions have been organising protests and campaigns around the country against Wal-Mart, but both workers and union campaigns when approached by US media stated that this action was completely spontaneous and independent of the unions. Business Week claimed the protest was led by two department managers, Guillermo Vasquez and Rosie Larosa, who weren't personally affected by the changes but thought things had gone too far, and approached workers one by one gaining signatures in favour of the protest and to attach to a protest letter which was sent to Wal-Mart management. It was reported that some concessions were won by the strike in relation to the changes in terms, but as yet it's not clear what those concessions were.
Also this week, Wal-Mart was ordered to pay $72million dollars to staff to compensate for missed breaks. The rotaing system at the store was found by a US court to be designed to prevent workers from taking rest breaks and force them to work overtime for free. The case arose from a class action suite involving 187,000 current and former employees who worked at Walmart and Sam’s Clubs in Pennsylvania from March 1998 through May 2006.