No 7-Eleven

Resisting Chain Stores and Corporate Control

Low-Wage Workers’ Movement Catches Fire

Low-Wage Workers' Movement Catches FireHundreds of Walmart workers and community allies across major US cities took to the streets on Black Friday to protest the multibillion-dollar corporation for poor working conditions, unfair labor practices and wages so low the retailer held a food drive for its own employees this Thanksgiving.

The nationwide campaign under the umbrella of Organization United for Respect (OUR Walmart), supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers, held protests in major cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Dallas and Seattle. It was part of a growing movement of increasingly organized and mobilized low-wage workers that include retail, fast food and restaurant workers.

“I’m out here to show the workers not to fear retaliation, because it’s our right to be able to organize and protest what Walmart is doing to its associates,” said Richard Mendoza, an employee at Walmart’s Duarte store in Los Angeles County. “The more times they get away with it, the bigger the problem is going to be.”

As in the past, with consumers often stampeding and fighting for marked-down products, this year’s Black Friday sales were marred by violence that has been deadly for low-paid workers who operate the stores so their employer can make billions in profits on Black Friday. Mendoza said he had to start work at 5:30 PM on Thanksgiving to accommodate a new practice whereby retailers push Black Friday well into the holiday.

In 2008, 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour, a Long Island, New York, Walmart employee, was killed on Black Friday when shoppers stampeded through doors and trampled him to death. Walmart was fined only $7,000 for this tragedy – but to date has not paid.

Beyond Black Friday, public advocacy for low-wage workers is gaining steam. But the heightened push has raised questions: What is being advocated for? Is it specific rights and protections? A minimum wage? Increased unionization? Or is the goal a sea change in the way the economy operates – a larger shift toward real democracy?

Continue reading Low-Wage Workers’ Movement Catches Fire [Truthout]

Wal-Mart Asks Workers To Donate Food… To Its Own Needy Employees

Wal-Mart Cares!Wal-Mart cares!

A new article in Business Insider reports that a Cleveland Wal-Mart is holding a food drive, not for a homeless shelter or a needy charity, but its own underpaid employees. Nice.

“That Wal-Mart would have the audacity to ask low-wage workers to donate food to other low-wage workers — to me, it is a moral outrage,” Norma Mills, a customer at the store, told the Plain Dealer.

Wal-Mart has been criticized for paying low wages to its 2.2 million employees.

Wal-Mart Asks Workers To Donate Food To Its Needy Employees [Business Insider]

‘Living Wage’ Mandate in D.C. Sends Walmart Running

Walmart - Living WageRawStory: ‘Living Wage’ Mandate in D.C. Sends Walmart Running

Walmart said Wednesday it would abandon three planned stores in Washington, D.C. and consider stopping the construction of three others over a so-called “living wage” bill.

“Nothing has changed from our perspective: we will not pursue Skyland, Capitol Gateway, and New York Avenue and will start to review the financial and legal implications on the three stores already under construction,” Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo said in a statement. “This was a difficult decision for us — and unfortunate news for most D.C. residents — but the Council has forced our hand.”

The Large Retailer Accountability Act was passed in the D.C. Council by a 8-5 vote on Wednesday. If signed by Mayor Vince Gray, it would require retailers that make more than $1 billion per year and occupy at least 75,000 square feet to pay employees at least $12.50 per hour, minus benefits. Stores with collective bargaining agreements would not be effected by the law.
The Council was apparently unmoved by Walmart’s threats to pull out of the city.

Continue reading ‘Living Wage’ Mandate in D.C. Sends Walmart Running

Payroll Cards Are Under Scrutiny by New York’s Attorney General

Payroll Cards Are Under Scrutiny by New York’s Attorney GeneralDealB%k/NY TIMES: Payroll Cards Are Under Scrutiny by New York’s Attorney General

New York’s top prosecutor is investigating some of the state’s largest employers over their use of A.T.M.-style cards to pay their hourly employees.

The New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, has sent letters seeking information to about 20 employers, including McDonald’s, Walgreen and Wal-Mart, say people briefed on the matter.

The inquiry by Mr. Schneiderman comes as a growing number of companies are abandoning paper paychecks and direct deposit to offer prepaid cards. But consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators have said that in the vast majority of cases, use of the cards can generate a range of fees — 50 cents for a balance inquiry and $2.25 for an out-of-network A.T.M. Those fees can quickly devour the pay of part-time and low-wage workers.

And many employees say that they have no alternative. Even at companies where there is a choice, it is often elusive. Worried about imperiling their jobs, some employees say they are terrified of requesting another option, according to interviews with consumer advocates. Other employees say that they are automatically enrolled in the payroll-card programs and forced to navigate a bureaucratic maze if they want to opt out.

Continue reading Payroll Cards Are Under Scrutiny by New York’s Attorney General

Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees

Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of FeesNew York Times: Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees

A growing number of American workers are confronting a frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must first pay a fee.

For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards, which work like debit cards, at an A.T.M. to withdraw their pay.

But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.

These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators.

Devonte Yates, 21, who earns $7.25 an hour working a drive-through station at a McDonald’s in Milwaukee, says he spends $40 to $50 a month on fees associated with his JPMorgan Chase payroll card.

“It’s pretty bad,” he said. “There’s a fee for literally everything you do.”

Certain transactions with the Chase pay card are free, according to a fee schedule.

Many employees say they have no choice but to use the cards: some companies no longer offer common payroll options like ordinary checks or direct deposit.

At companies where there is a choice, it is often more in theory than in practice, according to interviews with employees, state regulators and consumer advocates. Employees say they are often automatically enrolled in the payroll card programs and confronted with a pile of paperwork if they want to opt out.

“We hear virtually every week from employees who never knew there were other options, and employers certainly don’t disabuse workers of that idea,” said Deyanira Del Rio, an associate director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, which works with community groups in New York.

Taco Bell, Walgreen and Wal-Mart are among the dozens of well-known companies that offer prepaid cards to their workers; the cards are particularly popular with retailers and restaurants. And they are quickly gaining momentum. In 2012, $34 billion was loaded onto 4.6 million active payroll cards, according to the research firm Aite Group. Aite said it expected that to reach $68.9 billion and 10.8 million cards by 2017.

Continue reading Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees