July 29, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—In late May Walmart workers struck over poor working conditions, erratic scheduling assignments and a lack of comprehensive health benefits. Nineteen workers were fired over the action, and some of them visited the apartment building where Walmart director Christopher Williams lives on East 94th Street and Park Avenue to ask him to stop intimidating workers on the job. Watch Video
On Black Friday in November 2012, the Our Walmart organization, comprised of current and former Walmart workers and supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, staged demonstrations outside Walmart stores throughout the country. Walmart said the demonstrations and picketing were illegal; labor organizers said they were in response to the retaliatory tactics against workers for speaking out against poor working conditions.
Then on May 29, Walmart workers from around the country traveled to Walmart's corporate offices in Bentonville, Arkansas to strike over poor conditions. After returning to work on June 9, two weeks after leaving for Bentonville, 19 Walmart workers were fired.
Yvette Brown used to work at a Walmart store outside of Sacramento, California before she was fired for participating in the strike last month. She said she met other Walmart workers from around the country who also told her that they were experiencing the same difficulties as she did—cutting back on work hours and low pay.
"It was impressive hearing stories that things weren't just happening at my store, it was happening nationwide and it really hit home twice as much," said Brown.
She said she traveled to New York hoping for the opportunity to speak with Walmart Director, Christopher Williams, who is also the founder and CEO of the Williams Capital Group. The company manages about $2.5 billion in assets and is among the largest minority-owned investment banks in the U.S. According to a Walmart proxy statement, Mr. Williams was paid $387,976 in fiscal year 2013 (2/1/2012 through 1/31/2013).
"I would like to mention to him that I know he could make a difference. Even one person can make a big impact in helping others," said Brown.
Brandon Garrett, who used to work at a Walmart store outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said he decided to strike because he and his co-workers weren't happy with the lack of respect shown by their managers.
"We're asking for more respect and to be heard. We're not trying to bring Walmart down; we're trying to make it better for the associates and the customers," said Brown.
Mark Powers travelled to New York from Dallas hoping he could speak with Mr. Williams.
"I'd like to tell him that he needs to be more of a leader and do a better job of telling the Walmart family of the struggles of the employees because it's really hard to make ends meet," said Powers.