This an open letter from AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler to the nation's working women.
In a show of national unity, Walmart moms are walking off the job in stores throughout the country this week. After years of trying to support themselves and their families on wages that are too low, with schedules that rob them of full-time benefits and an employer who fires co-workers who audaciously ask for more pay, they have had enough.
And walk they should.
As Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting convenes this week, we must stand with these brave women who are demanding enough hours to gain basic benefits and a fair wage for the hundreds of thousands of Walmart workers who earn less than $25,000 annually.
Low pay, inadequate hours and mistreatment are sadly common experiences for women in the workforce. Built into the fabric of Walmart’s business is a system that pays a majority of its workers—most of them women—so little annually they are forced to rely on food stamps and other taxpayer-supported programs to survive. It seems only fair that women who work at the largest retailer in the world should be able to afford to feed their families without having to rely on food stamps.
As the country’s largest private employer of women, Walmart sets the pace for all other retailers. Denying hours to its workers so they fall short of a full-time job keeps retail workers, the majority of whom are women, at the bottom, while Walmart continues to make huge profits.
But we know that standing together can make a difference for all working women. We know this because OUR Walmart recently demanded—and got—important changes to Walmart’s pregnancy policy. This week’s actions at Walmart are bigger than just one retailer. They represent a larger fight to ensure that all women receive respect and dignity on the job.
When women succeed in America, we all benefit. When women get a fair wage, entire families are lifted out of poverty and our economy benefits. When women gain basic benefits like health care and sick leave, families are stronger and healthier. When women—like the Walmart moms—organize for change, they are using their voice to give their families a chance at a better future. Let’s help their voices be heard. Let’s help them make their stand.
Their fight is our fight. It’s mine and it’s yours. Let the Walmart moms know we stand with them.