On November 18, 2013 the National Labor Relations board announced they would prosecute Walmart for workers’ rights violations including unfair disciplinary action and firing of workers attempting to unionize. This announcement further legitimized the complaints and demands that have been mounting from Walmart workers for months, including forced holiday work and low wages. Walmart’s PR around providing extra holiday pay and benefits for works have done little to suppress growing resistance, and in some cases have backfired, as in the Walmart store that held a food drive for its only employees.
And it is not just its own workers Walmart has treated unfairly. Walmart refused to sign the Bangladesh Safety Accord after the Rana Plaza disaster in April killed more than 1,100 workers and more recently a report showed that one in six clothing factories in Bangladesh used by Walmart failed to meet basic safety requirements. Separately, a Workers Rights Consortium report found that Walmart is buying from clothing factories in Haiti that actively engage in wage theft, that is withholding money from workers who do not even make a living wage to begin with, in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Farmers, too, have suffered in Walmart’s supply chains. A report from Nicaragua found that Walmart paid farmers significantly lower prices than traditional markets, and despite reducing price volatility, farmers did not benefit by selling to Wal-Mart. Similarly in the United States where Walmart boasts of a robust local food program, anecdotal reports from farmers show that it is not profitable or beneficial for small farmers to sell to Walmart and even their local food program favors large farmers.
It is no longer possible to deny that Walmart’s low prices come at the expense of the farmers and workers in Walmart’s supply chains, including their own employees. It is time for workers, farmers, and consumers to stand up together and demand better.
Read about our 2013 pledge to stand in solidarity with Walmart employees and the farmers and workers who supply them.