Workers Are Fighting Retail Robber Barons – and Winning

A small group of Walmart workers recently publicly confronted Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress who is probably the world’s richest woman. Earlier this year, Walmart increased the starting wage for store associates to $11 an hour, but competitors Amazon and Target agreed to $15, which is still not enough to make ends meet in many parts of the United States. Would Walmart follow their lead?

Walton attempted to deflect the question, saying, “That’s not my job.” The workers pressed Walton for an answer, pointing to Walmart CEO Greg Foran, who thanked the Walton family for their role in past pay increases during a meeting with investors in October. That sent a flustered Walton into a hasty retreat.

Foran also told investors that, in some areas of the country, $11 is still “the right amount to pay” a starting Walmart associate. Organization United for Respect (OUR), a nonprofit group that advocates for better wages and conditions at Walmart, used MIT’s Living Wage Calculator to take Foran to task.

In every state in the country, a Walmart associate working full time (which Walmart defines as 34 hours per week) at $11 does not make enough money to cover the basic costs of living for an individual, not to mention a family, according to the group’s analysis. Walmart did not respond to a request for comment.

“There are two major trends in retail: Corporations are squeezing people harder every day, and people are fighting back within that context to make some real gains happen,” said OUR co-director Andrea Dehlendorf, in an interview.

Last week, Walmart workers confronted Alice Walton again, this time with a demonstration demanding better pay held outside her Manhattan penthouse. They also paid a visit to the penthouse of Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart’s ecommerce arm. He reportedly bought his penthouse in Manhattan for $44 million.

Madeline Chambers, who…

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