Protesters pushing for Walmart to pay all its employees at least $15 an hour confronted Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Wednesday at her New York campaign headquarters over her connections to the company.
The movement to pass a $15 minimum wage has made significant ground in the last couple years. While supporters have pushed for local and national reforms, large companies have also been pressured to adapt internal policies. Walmart has been a primary target of the movement. Hillary, however, is advocating for a $12 an hour minimum wage instead. She also has close connections to Walmart.
The group of protesters included current and former Walmart workers, reports Buzzfeed. Hillary served as a board member for the retailers from 1986 to 1992. Some of the workers were participating in a hunger strike which began Nov. 13. Security confronted the protesters upon entering the building. The discussion turned heated when building management threatened to call the police. Management did eventually agree to deliver a letter to Hillary.
“[We] are fasting for $15 an hour and full-time, predictable schedules,” the letter stated according to Buzzfeed. “We all need our country’s largest employer to set a new standard, and we need you to lead.”
After the letter was delivered, Hillary agreed to speak with the protesters outside. The protest is being led by the opposition group OUR Walmart. It will end during the Black Friday national rally which the group has orchestrated for four years. The protest is to put pressure on the company during one of its busiest days of year.
“We know it takes quality associates to give our customers a great shopping experience and we’re proud of the wages and benefits package we offer,” Walmart told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “Our average full time hourly associate earns more than $13 an hour in addition to the opportunity for quarterly cash bonuses, matching 401k as well as healthcare benefits. Walmart is investing $2.7 billion over this year and next in wages, education and training for our associates because we know they make the difference.”
OUR Walmart has been accused in the past of not being about workers. Worker Center Watch has alleged the protests are being used as a means to illegally unionize workers. A former United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) organizer, Rian Wathen, claimed November 2014 the group was violating the law by trying to get Walmart workers into union ranks.
Worker groups like OUR Walmart don’t have the same legal restrictions unions have. For that reason they are often used by unions. Worker groups can reach out to employees and declare protests much more easily. At the same time, National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) rules prohibit worker groups from helping to unionize employees without filing a petition for an election. Once signed, the group is subjected to the same restrictions unions face.
The most recent push by OUR Walmart is also its first major action since the group split in two back in September. The split was due in large part to a disagreement among its union backers. The side leading the protest no longer has financial support by the UFCW. Union members recently elected new leadership that ran on a platform to put an end to the OUR Walmart campaign. The AFL-CIO has since stepped in to support the splinter OUR Walmart group.
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