February 23, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – If the biggest retailer in the world thought that bumping up the salaries of low-paid, struggling workers would weaken efforts to establish a true living wage and the right to form a union, they’re probably going to be a little disappointed.
The coalition that successfully fought to establish a $15 minimum wage in Seattle, for instance, says that Walmart’s decision to raise staff wages to $10 over the next couple of years, is actually a clear signal that organizing and mobilizing for workers’ rights is beginning to yield results.
“15 Now demands $15 an hour, full-time schedules, and a union for Walmart workers,” 15NowNYC spokesperson Daniel Kroop told LaborPress. “A paltry $10 an hour from the world's greediest employer is still not nearly enough. Through organization and continued struggle greater victories will be possible.”
Maria Myotte, spokesperson for the Restaurant Opportunities Center United – the national group fighting to eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, agrees, and says it’s jut a matter of time before we see similarly systematic changes in how the restaurant industry pays its own workers.
“There's already a major shift in how the public sees the tipped minimum,” Myotte told LaborPress. “Nationally, 71 percent of Americans support raising the lower, tipped minimum wage to match the full minimum wage. And restaurants employers across the country are introducing business models that pay living wages in addition to or as an alternative to tip-based model. Several states are also gearing up to introduce 'One Fair Wage' legislation.”
Over the last few years, Walmart workers across the nation have been at the vanguard of worker rights, protesting and demonstrating, walking off the job, and subjecting themselves to arrest — all in an effort to change the prevailing anti-worker paradigm in the U.S.
“Walmart workers have shown how solidarity is powerful enough to move the biggest employer in the US,” Hector Figueroa, president, 32BJ SEIU, said in an email. “This victory is inspiring all low-wage workers to keep up the Fight for $15 and the fight for union rights. As one of the world’s largest companies, Walmart needs to do more. We’ll keep fighting until all working people have good jobs with family-sustaining pay and benefits.”
Bruce W. Both, president, UFCW Local 1500, lauded the unfailing tenacity of Walmart workers and the ensuing pay raises, but says there are real questions about whether the company is truly commited to improving jobs, or simply trying to quiet the concerns of OUR Walmart members, investors, shoppers and taxpayers.
"We don't know what this means for our hours – as more and more workers report that they are not getting the hours they want and need," Both said in an email. "The truth is that this raise, especially without any guarantee of hours, is a promise that falls short of what we need to feed our families."
Editor's Note: This story was updated to include comments from UFCW Local 1500 President Bruce W. Both.