Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

FL Walmart Workers Join Fight for Better Wages, Working Conditions

TAMPA, FL– Shoppers will be out this week in search of deep discounts at Florida's big-box stores, but some workers at the world's largest private employer want to remind shoppers that, in their view, Walmart's low prices come at a cost.

Starting today, employees of some central Florida Walmarts plan to walk off their jobs in protest of what they say are low wages and unfair working conditions. Nancy Reynolds has worked at the Merritt Island Walmart for seven years and says she wants shoppers to consider what goes on behind the scenes when they shop.

"The customers should realize we are being done this way because they keep shopping there," says Reynolds. "And they aren't putting pressure on Walmart as well."

Reynolds is diabetic and says she's routinely scheduled for long shifts without meal breaks. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union is coordinating the actions across Florida this week. In published reports, Walmart has said the protesters represent a small percentage of its' workforce of 1.3 million in the U.S.

Angela Williamson is the lead organizer for United Food and Commercial Workers in central Florida, and a former Walmart employee. She says she was also treated poorly and lost her job after an illness. She thinks changes at Walmart could be the "tipping point" to better working conditions and wages for people across the country.

"If we could change Walmart and uphold them to better standards and working conditions, then it would change retail and grocery basically, and service industry across the country," she says.

Williamson says more employees are volunteering to strike this weekend than ever before, saying they're tired of low wages and employer retaliation when they complain.

"That's probably one of the biggest things workers say, is that they're not respected at work," says Williamson. "Whether it's with their pay, with having benefits taken away, how they're treated as a person inside the store. They're just not respected."

According to a report by Americans for Tax Fairness, the U.S. supports Walmart's low-wage workers with more than $6 billion annually in public assistance in the form of SNAP benefits, Medicaid and subsidized housing.

Photos/graphics added by the Observer

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