Wal-Mart workers strike, rally outside Marissa Mayer’s SF penthouse

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There are no Walmart stores in San Francisco. And yet, four members of the company's board of directors are influential Bay Area residents. On May 29, a group of Walmart workers assembled outside the residence of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, a Walmart director, who has a 38th floor penthouse apartment above the Four Seasons on Market Street in San Francisco.

Donning bright green T-shirts and chanting, “Stand up, live better,” the workers were gearing up to join roughly 100 members of OUR Walmart, a nationwide organization of Walmart associates, in going on strike and caravanning to Bentonville, AR, where the retailer will hold its annual shareholder meeting June 7. 

OUR Walmart’s stated concerns include things like giving employees the option of working full-time, and providing a level of wages and benefits that ensures employees aren't forced to rely on government assistance to get by.

Dominic Ware, who works part-time at a Walmart in San Leandro, led chants on a megaphone and has been coordinating with OUR Walmart activists on a national level. Ware said he earns $8.65 an hour – 40 cents higher than the wage he started at a year ago – and stays with his grandmother, since his paycheck isn’t enough to cover rent and provide for his 7-year-old daughter. He estimated that roughly half his earnings go directly back to Walmart, where he purchases groceries and other basic items. 

Ware said he was going on strike and caravanning to demand a higher level of respect for Walmart employees. He described the frustration of an elderly coworker who has been unable to have her work shift adjusted to make it possible for her to catch a bus home, instead of walking late at night. 

John “JJ” Juanitas, another Walmart associate, said the amount he earns working part-time at the Fremont store isn’t enough to put food on the table -- but he said he hasn’t been able to transition to working full time despite submitting requests to do so. Asked what had inspired him to join the strike, Juanitas responded that he wanted to stand with employees who faced retaliation for participating in OUR Walmart organizing. At the same time, he added, the lack of protection for Walmart workers has been a source of anxiety, and the night before the protest, “I didn’t get a good night’s sleep,” he said.

Mayer, widely regarded as one of the most powerful women in tech, isn’t the only well-connected Silicon Valley figure helping to steer the nation’s largest private employer. Bay Area billionaire Jim Breyer, an initial investor in Facebook and cofounder of venture capital firm Accel Partners, also serves on the board, as does Gregory Penner, son-in-law of Walmart board chair Rob Walton and an investor in dating website eHarmony. Aida Alvarez, another Wal-Mart board member, chairs the Latino Community Foundation of San Francisco, based at 225 Bush Street.

The protest outside Mayer's penthouse was timed to coincide with the start of the strike and caravan, but some organizers with San Francisco’s chapter of Jobs with Justice were there to call attention to Walmart’s ties to a factory building that collapsed in Bangladesh last month, killing 1,100 workers. 

Documents unearthed by Bangladeshi labor rights activists in the aftermath of that tragic event revealed that a Canadian Walmart contractor had produced jeans in that building, which was known as Rana Plaza. Now, activists with the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity are calling on Walmart to sign onto a legally binding safety accord to ensure higher levels of maintenance at facilities similar to Rana Plaza. They’re asking Gap to do the same.

Comments

If 8 Washington were built, Mayer could move there, and all the protesters would be standing in open sewage.

Posted by Guest on May. 30, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

people don't protest BOD walmart member Hillary Clinton back in the day.

Any-who, Wlamart is best avoided, shoddy junk for sale and an all around shitty company.

Posted by matlock on May. 30, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

Mayer likes to live in her rich, mostly liberal Silicon Valley world, while pulling down extra money from one of the worst union busting, Republican supporting, job killing corporations out there.

Posted by BradW on May. 30, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

show up at someone's home like this.

Now, since they live way up in the tower and there is probably a private entrance somewhere, this won't have much practical effect. But it is crossing a line when you invade someone's home space, and I'd say the same if it were an anti-abortion protesters disrupting the home life of an abortion doctor.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 8:51 am

Instead of protesting, why not spend all your time and effort applying for other jobs that pay a higher wage? Obviously you believe you are worth more than Walmart is paying you, so take your skills and apply them elsewhere. If you can't find better paying work somewhere else, maybe you are worth exactly what Walmart is paying you.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 9:59 am

Mr. Ware's nearly 5% raise after a year is actually pretty generous.

Posted by Chromefields on May. 31, 2013 @ 11:45 am

The "black hole theory" of the minimum wage:
Physicists theorize that inside a black hole the laws of physics breakdown. When the minimum wage falls far enough below what the market would bear the laws of supply and demand breakdown. Doubling today's federal minimum wage should lead to a disproportionate explosion of demand for the goods of minimum to median wage paying employers.

If we cut today's minimum to median wages in half that wouldn't help McDonald's or Wal-Mart, would it? This wage cut must already have taken place when we would need to triple today's minimum wage to catch up with doubled productivity since 1968 (almost quadruple the early 2007 minimum wage -- the median wage stagnated as productivity doubled too).

Doubling today's minimum wage to $15 an hour would add 50% to Wal-Mart's wages but only 5% to Wal-Mart's prices – 100% to McDonald's wages but 33% to McDonald's prices. $15 an hour being today's median wage, half the workforce would get raises percentage multiples of pass through price increases.

This win-win effect could not go on forever. At $30,000 a year consumers would buy a lot more fast food and retail items than they will at $15,000 a year – hugely pent-up demand. Going from a $30,000 year minimum wage to $40,000 would raise prices (3% at Wal-Mart; 11% at McDonald's) but not add much to demand – though some people would have more money to spend -- a wash? Somewhere in between is the edge of the black hole.

Posted by Denis Drew on Jun. 02, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

Id we doubled everyone's salary, inflation would double (definitionally) and nobody would be better off.

You are essentially arguing for printing money. It doesn't work, as most thinking people know.

No minimum wage at all simply ensures a market wage.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 6:44 am

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