Walmart, for the second consecutive year, is holding a holiday food drive for its own employees. The retail giant has decided once again that instead of raising the wages of its 2.1 million employees, it will ask workers with a bit more disposable income to donate food to their associates with less.
A Walmart store in Ohio gained national attention last year when it hosted a Thanksgiving food drive for workers who don’t make enough money at the store to buy food for dinners. About 825,000 hourly employees at Walmart, the country’s largest private employer, make less than $25,000 a year.
OUR Walmart, a union-backed organizing group, has estimated that most employees make less than $9 per hour.
An Oklahoma store this month is hosting a similar drive. A picture of a bin reading “Let’s succeed by donating to associates in need!!!” was posted to the Making Change Facebook page and attributed to a Walmart in the state.
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The company is owned by the six members of the Walton family, who, in 2012 had a collective net worth of $90 billion, or more than the combined income of the lowest-earning 42 percent of Americans. That year, Walmart’s net sales added up to $419 billion, more than the GDP of Norway.
Walmart employees and labor justice groups have targeted the company for its low-wage jobs and lack of support for employees. Since 2012, Walmart workers and allies have organized one-day walkout protests, culminating in strikes during Black Friday, the largest retail event of the year, starting the day after Thanksgiving.
Democrats in the U.S. Committee on Education and the Workforce concluded in a 2013 study that Walmart’s low wages and benefits force its employees to turn to government aid and cost taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.75 million per store, every year.
Speaking out for better working conditions comes with a price; early this year, the National Labor Relations Board found that Walmart illegally fired, disciplined, or threatened at least 60 employees for complaining publicly about wages.
“The Walmart economy—a business model where a few profit significantly on the backs of the working poor and a diminishing middle class—perpetuates the income inequality problems that are devastating our country,” OUR Walmart and the United Food and Commercial Workers union said in a statement Monday.
The supplementing of Walmart workers comes during a national economic recovery fueled mostly by low-paying jobs. And it’s a recovery that has left many groups behind.
The unemployment rates from August to September went down about a full percentage point for African-American women (down from 10.6 to 9.6 percent), Hispanic women (down from 8.1 to 7.2 percent) and Hispanic men (down from 5.9 to 4.8 percent), and single mothers (down from 9.3 to 8.3 percent).