MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – A noisy protest greeted President Obama as he arrived at a Mountain View Walmart to honor the company for environmentalism. Current and former Walmart workers, union members and community leaders carrying banners and signs rallied outside the barricades closing off the store parking lot.
“The President owes it to working families to keep his word about addressing the problem of income inequality,” said Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. “It’s insulting that we elected this President and he’s praising a multi-billion dollar company that keeps its workers living in poverty.”
Walmart employee Pamela Ramos, who works at the Mountain View Walmart the President visited, is living in her car because low wages and medical bills keep her from covering the rent.
“When I heard President Obama was visiting my store, I wanted to tell him what income inequality really looks like—right here working at the country’s largest employer,” said Ramos. ”What I make is not enough to cover the bills, and all I can afford to eat for lunch is a cup of coffee and a bag of potato chips. Even though the company makes $16 billion in profits, hundreds of thousands of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year.
In addition to the hundreds that rallied outside of the store, 32 groups including, Global Exchange, Jobs with Justice, Moveon.org, and Rainforest Action Network, signed onto the joint statement below:
“We are asking the President to challenge Walmart to help strengthen the American economy and protect our environment by becoming a leader in sustainability and creating better jobs. The country’s largest employer should not only be supporting the bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, it should be providing workers a minimum of $25,000 a year and full-time work.”
Walmart workers—part of OUR Walmart—have been taking the country’s income inequality head on by calling on the giant retailer to publicly commit to ending retaliation against workers and provide better wages for workers. While the majority of associates are paid less than $25,000 a year, Walmart makes $16 billion in annual profits and the Waltons—the richest family in the country—have a combined wealth of more than $148 billion. Many workers must rely on taxpayer-supported programs like food stamps and public health care just to get by.
Marketplace recently revealed that Walmart is the biggest beneficiary of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps. Walmart takes 18 percent of all food stamp dollars— or $13 billion in revenue. A Congressional report calculated that Walmart workers are forced to rely on $900,000 in taxpayer funded supports, including food stamps and healthcare, at just one of the company’s 4,000 stores.
Environmentalists have also been calling on the company to take real steps towards sustainability, recently awarding the company the “greenwasher of the year” award for its efforts to talk the talk about sustainability, without taking real, meaningful steps towards even meeting its own goals – or standards in the industry. Just 3 percent of Walmart’s power comes from its wind and solar projects and its use of renewable energy has fallen 25% in the last two years. Walmart continues to lag behind many of its competitors including Kohl’s, Staples, and Whole Foods who are already using 100% renewable energy.
The President’s motorcade pulled into the Walmart on the opposite side of the store in order to avoid the protesters. He spent less than half an hour there before flying out of Moffett Field.