Following the U.S. Senate’s vote on raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hr, Maryland Walmart Associate and co-founder of United for Respect Cynthia Murray released the following statement:
“We’re demanding at least $15 because we know that is the bare minimum of what we need to survive, to raise our families, and to rebuild our communities in the aftermath of the pandemic. America faces the greatest economic crisis in a generation, and we need change today. Now. Our movement has been in this fight since 2012. There is no state in our country today where a family can rent a two-bedroom apartment on a full-time wage of less than $15. Millionaire Senators voted today to keep the minimum wage at $7.25, and it is unacceptable; I challenge any of them to live on Walmart’s wages and see how fast things change.
Today the Senate failed the working people of the nation they are supposed to serve. This is a failure and a betrayal. But our movement is battle-worn and we will never back down.”
United for Respect (UFR) member-leaders have been calling on political leadership in Washington to stand up to big corporations like Walmart and pass a federal minimum wage of at least $15/hour, a raise that would lift 900,000 workers out of poverty, for nearly a decade. Walmart associates with United for Respect first launched calls for at least $15/hour in 2012, under the banner “$15 and Full Time at Walmart.”
Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, United for Respect member-leaders have been campaigning for expanded protections and pay to keep employees and customers safe. Since last year, retail workers at Walmart, Amazon, Petco, and PetSmart have called for ‘Five to Survive’, a pandemic platform for essential workers’ health and safety that includes needs for hazard pay, increased protections on the job, and priority access to the vaccine.
Now more than a year into the public health pandemic, wealthy corporations like Walmart have continued business-as-usual, raking in profits while leaving frontline employees without additional pay or proper PPE.
Even as Walmart associates work some of the most dangerous jobs in the pandemic, Walmart recently announced it will be keeping its minimum wage at just $11/hr — a starvation wage that forces associates to turn to public assistance to cover the basics and has made the Walmart one of the top four employers of SNAP and Medicaid beneficiaries, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Just last month, Walmart’s board approved another $20 billion in stock buybacks, prioritizing executives and shareholders over its frontline workforce. Walmart’s current annual wage increase for its lowest-paid employees is just 22 cents an hour.
United for Respect members working on the frontlines of essential pet care at Petsmart and Petco are also struggling to get by on some of the lowest wages in retail–even as their employers have seen business boom during the pandemic. According to Payscale, the average pay for retail associates at Petco remains just $9.86 an hour and $10.06 an hour at PetSmart.