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Council ally arrested at protest against Walmart today

Our friend Kristen Beifus, the Director of the Seattle-based Washington Fair Trade Coalition, was arrested at a non-violent Black Friday protest today. Council of Canadians activists may remember her from our annual general meeting in Nanaimo in October 2012 or the protest against the Trans Pacific Partnership at the Peace Arch Park on the British Columbia-Washington border last December.

Photo by Alex Garland.

The workers rights group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) organized about 1,500 rallies across the United States today calling on the company to pay its employees better. The group is calling for a $25,000 annual minimum wage for Walmart workers, for the company to offer more full-time work, and an end to the company retaliating against workers when they organize to address concerns.

The site, which is based on employee reviews of companies, says the average sales associate is paid $8.86 an hour, or a salary of $17,841. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for retail sales people in the US was $20,990 in 2010, or $10.09 per hour. The US National Labor Relations Board believes Walmart illegally threatened, disciplined or terminated more than 100 employees in 13 states for participating in protests over wages and working conditions. 

Last year the company made $15.7 billion in profit.

Recently CBC Radio’s As It Happens interviewed a Walmart spokesperson about why Walmart employees at a store in Ohio launched a food drive for their colleagues. The interview is worth listening to here.

In the late-1980s, the Council of Canadians campaigned against Walmarts setting up stores in Canada, and chapters have fought against Walmart stores opening in their communities, notably in Guelph, Ontario.

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