NATIONWIDE — Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, announced today the national roll-out of its plan to change store-staff structures. Cynthia Murray, a Walmart associate of 20 years and United for Respect leader, issued the following statement:
“Walmart associates across the country are only now learning the details of our employer’s new staffing model, but we are already concerned and anxious about what is to come. We are risking our lives to serve Walmart customers during the pandemic and helped generate record profits, and it is unacceptable to me that executives would push new staffing models with zero input from the front line employees.
“Raises for some staff, but not for all, will not cut it. All long-term workers like me deserve to get raises, and every single one of Walmart’s 1.5 million U.S. employees should be making at least $15 an hour. Promises that jobs and pay will be maintained until October 2021 are no relief when we’re already struggling to make ends meet and there’s no certainty that the economy will be in full recovery in a year. And it’s time to move beyond words about racial justice — Walmart must disclose if people of color and women are disproportionately concentrated in typically lower paying part-time positions or are paid less than others at Walmart. If this is true, Walmart’s CEO has a responsibility to fix it.
“Associates have said loudly and clearly what we need to survive and thrive: living wages, fair treatment of part-time associates, and for the Board to include the independent, hourly workers in decision making as we continue to make our stores safe for associates and the public during the pandemic. This announcement completely ignores our demands on coronavirus protections, our number one concern when we clock-in for shifts.
“For months, I’ve lived in fear that I could get sick with COVID-19 while at work, while the Waltons’ fortunes have ballooned by billions. Now, I might lose my job and be left without any severance or health care during the pandemic.”
Today’s announcement comes after associates endured months of turmoil, fueled by Walmart’s failures to support workers and keep them safe amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
In May, United for Respect and the Center for Popular Democracy released a comprehensive timeline detailing the consistent failure of Walmart’s executive team to properly manage the COVID-19 crisis, despite early warnings — taking weeks to implement social distancing rules, and waiting until more than 120,000 COVID-19 related deaths before making mask-wearing a requirement for customers. Recent store closures, outbreaks, and worker testimonials reveal Walmart still fails to properly enforce social distancing and mask wearing. A survey of 1500 associates nationwide in April found that only 9% of respondents were able to always maintain at least six feet distance from other people, including the public, while at work.
Walmart has not disclosed how many associates have contracted and died from COVID-19, leaving associates and member-leaders of United for Respect to take matters into their own hands and create a COVID-19 tracker and lobby stakeholders to support a proposal that would allow Walmart associates a seat at the decision-making table. As of September 16, the worker-sourced tracker has collected more than 900 submissions, tallying at least 1,269 positive cases of COVID-19 at Walmart locations. To date, there have been at least 22 deaths of Walmart associates from COVID-19.
Despite the heightened risk Walmart employees face by continuing to serve Walmart’s customers, and staggering $10 billion revenue growth due to pandemic-related spikes, CEO Doug McMillon has failed to institute hourly hazard pay, instead providing workers with measly bonuses that barely add up for cash-strapped workers taking on the life-threatening virus. Meanwhile, the Walton family — the richest family in the country — has swelled its sizable fortune by nearly $25 billion during the pandemic.
In the absence of leadership from McMillon, United for Respect member-leaders and Walmart associates have been pushing for worker representation of Walmart’s board of directors, and recently lobbied stakeholders to support a proposal that would allow Walmart associates a seat at the decision-making table.
Associates have called for hazard pay at 1.5 times their hourly pay as baseline compensation for the risk and sacrifice taken. Walmart’s recent COVID-19 related cash bonuses (averaging about $19 a week for part-time associates and $37 for full time) are about half as much as the $2 an hour raises Walmart’s competitors (including Target, Amazon and Costco) provided to their employees. Those companies also have a higher base wage of $15 an hour in 2020, compared to Walmart at $11 an hour.