After game-changing wins, working people in retail launch movement to fight to put power back into the hands of the people


NATIONWIDE — Today, people who work at Walmart, Amazon, Target, Sears, and other retail corporations announced they are joining forces to fight for a democracy and economy that allows them to live full, free lives under the banner of United for Respect. This launch comes amidst continued criticism of mega retail corporations and Wall Street-owned retailers driving deeper inequality.

“We need an economy and a democracy that allows working people to live with dignity. Billionaires have rigged the economy for themselves, against our families and communities. Today, we are joining together to be a voice for all working people and hold the billionaires to account,” said Shashauna Phillips, a United for Respect leader and customer service manager at Walmart of six years. “We’re taking our fight for respect across the country, across corporations, and calling for jobs that allow us to live in dignity. We’ve been winning wage increases, fair workweek laws, paid family leave, and paid sick time, but it’s time to rethink how corporations are fundamentally structured.”

Walmart, the largest corporate employer, has come under repeated scrutiny for using billions of profits to enrich investors while failing to pay its 1.5 million associates a living wage. Similarly, over 250,000 jobs at Sears and Kmart were lost to the intentionally reckless and irresponsible actions of the company’s Wall Street owner. Leaders at United for Respect are speaking up about this economic devastation and fighting for their jobs, coworkers, families, and communities.

United for Respect (formerly Organization United for Respect or OUR) originated almost ten years ago with 100 Walmart associates who came together at Walmart’s HQ in Bentonville, AR. Since then, OUR Walmart leaders have spoken out, held national mass protests, gone on strike, and even successfully moved Walmart to raise base pay from $7.25 to $11 an hour. Last year, Walmart implemented paid family leave after more than 100,000 Walmart associates and supporters petitioned the company and an OUR Walmart leader spoke out about paid leave at the company’s shareholder meeting. Walmart’s move to provide associates six days of Paid Protected Time Off earlier this year addresses concerns many raised calling on the corporation to publicly commit to provide all associates with at least six paid sick days each year “to ensure that no one loses their job when they get sick.”

This year, from Walmart to Sears, United for Respect leaders are calling for hourly associates to get seats on corporate boards. From the bottom to the top, associates are fighting for the power to decide what happens at their company and in their stores.

“We invest our lives in these corporations, we make them profitable, but Wall Street players are lining their pockets while we’re left with nothing. We deserve a say in how these corporations are run so we can protect our jobs and our communities from greedy Wall Street billionaires. When Lampert destroyed Sears, I only got four weeks of severance,” said Martha Castro, a United for Respect leader and Sears associate of 20 years who lives in El Centro, CA. “If I was on the board of Sears, I would have looked out for the company and stopped Lampert from selling off pieces of Sears for his own gain.”

Last year, when Wall Street greed destroyed 33,000 jobs at Toys ‘R’ Us, employees taking action with United for Respect through its Rise Up Retail campaign held more than 150 actions across 20 states, moving elected officials and pension funds to support their cause and winning a historic $20 million financial assistance fund created by the retail icon’s former private equity owners, KKR and Bain Capital. Building on the momentum of this victory, people who work at Sears and Kmart have picked up the baton and are now fighting to hold Wall Street accountable alongside Gymboree, Payless and Charlotte Russe associates facing uncertainty.

Current and former Walmart, Sears, Kmart, Amazon, Target and Toys ‘R’ Us employees recently convened in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Jersey City, and D.C. to build upon a shared vision for the future of retail to be able to work with dignity and security and live full, free lives. In the past ten years, more than 600,000 workers have lost their jobs to Wall Street-driven bankruptcies, and the median wage of a retail worker in the U.S. is $10.60/hr.

The growing, vibrant movement of working people taking action with United for Respect is holding Wall Street accountable and bringing a unified call for change to the retail sector, confronting issues of stagnating wages, job cuts, problematic working conditions, racial and gender inequalities, workplace sexual harassment, and the use of hard-earned profits to enrich shareholders instead of invest in those building the company at the ground level.

If you’re covering Walmart, Sears, Amazon or Target and would like to speak to an employee, please contact Taylor Campbell at (202) 854-9571 or [email protected].