Jul 22, 2011

Chorus of Voices Calls on White House to Tell Walmart to End the Poverty Cycle

On Wednesday, we posted a statement from UFCW International President Joe Hansen, challenging the White House to tell Walmart to create good jobs and end the poverty cycle. Since then, labor leaders representing many millions more workers around the country have added their voices to the chorus. As a special Friday treat, we've compiled those statements here:

Joint Statement by AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka and UFCW Pres. Joseph Hansen on White House Walmart Event

We are honored that President Obama asked us to serve on his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, charged primarily with rebuilding America's middle class by creating good jobs. America's working families urgently need leadership that will get Americans back to good jobs, paying taxes, spending in their communities and saving for retirement. The jobs crisis facing our nation threatens our long-term economic security, the strength and cohesion of our families and communities and our ability to compete successfully in the global economy.

Today's White House event, which highlights Walmart's expansion in urban areas, undercuts the message of the need for good jobs that can rebuild our middle class.

When Walmart opens in a community, it regularly displaces existing jobs with poverty-level jobs. Tens of thousands of Walmart associates qualify for and utilize food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid. In this time of budgetary stress, Walmart's business model is subsidized on the backs of American taxpayers.

There is no economic justification for our nation's largest private employer to pay wages so low that any of its employees qualify for public assistance. And there is no justification for highlighting a private employer with a business model based on suppressing wages for its 1.4 million hourly workers.

We call on the Administration to remain focused on the importance of a strong middle class and protecting and creating good jobs on the scale that is needed. We ask the Administration to stand with communities that have called on Walmart to strengthen the communities it enters rather than drive standards and wages down.

SEIU's Mary Kay Henry: We Cannot Ignore Reality that Wal-Mart is America's Chief Corporate Poverty Creator

Statement of SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry on the White House event recognizing retailers expanding their business in underserved areas. Wal-Mart is among the attendees.

"As the nation's largest union of healthcare workers and as educators, child care providers, and social workers, we see the consequences every day of our failure to confront our country's childhood obesity crisis and provide quality food, health, and education services in underserved areas.

"It's vital that leaders like First Lady Michelle Obama continue to shine a light on this crisis and that we recognize responsible retailers like Safeway that step up their efforts to expand in underserved areas like they've done in neighborhoods in Los Angeles and Oakland. Safeway is not only bringing quality food into neighborhoods long abandoned by other grocery chains, they are also creating quality jobs in these communities.

"But we cannot ignore the reality that Wal-Mart is America's chief corporate poverty creator. And that they are linking arms not with America's workers to create good jobs but with right-wing politicians pushing job-killing policies and massive tax breaks for CEOs and millionaires. As our country's largest employer, Wal-Mart's corporate model of low wages and no benefits leaves millions of their workers unable to purchase healthy food or provide a good life for their families. And when Wal-Mart opens in a community, it can actually drive out good jobs and responsible employers.

"Wal-Mart should not be celebrated for false contributions to our communities and glitzy public relations campaigns that disguise their destructive policies. It's time to hold America's largest employer to a higher standard and demand that they produce quality jobs and do their part to increase opportunity and prosperity in our communities."

Teamsters Leader Says Retailer Contributes To Economic Woes

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa today issued the following statement about the White House event recognizing retailers that expand in underserved communities:

“I admire First Lady Michelle Obama for her work to improve the lives of American children. However, we are very concerned that companies like Walmart, which don’t pay their workers a decent wage, condemn children in this country to poverty, poor nutrition and shrinking prospects for their futures.

“Walmart’s CEO recently commented that the company’s shoppers are “running out of money.” That’s a big clue that the problem with our economy is the lack of good jobs.

“I urge the White House to reconsider its involvement with Walmart unless Walmart agrees to create the kind of good jobs that can provide its employees with a decent standard of living. In these hard times, we desperately need the White House to recognize employers that pay living wages, provide adequate health care and make positive contributions to the communities they serve. Walmart does not fit any of those categories. Only by creating good jobs in America will our economy recover.”

Statement of John W. Wilhelm, President of UNITE HERE about White House event with Walmart

Yesterday the White House hosted America's number one low road anti-union employer at an event to highlight the First Lady's laudable program to end childhood obesity. We at UNITE HERE are very disappointed by this needless affront to all who care about rising income inequality in America.

No company in the United States has done more to drive down wages of working Americans than Walmart, which pays wages so low that its own employees must resort to public assistance programs to feed their own families. No company in America goes to greater lengths to coerce its employees from joining a union than Walmart.

The root cause of rising levels of food-related illness, hunger, and "food deserts" in America is the refusal of companies like Walmart to pay working Americans enough to afford healthy food. How many Walmart workers live in food deserts or are receiving food assistance from taxpayers simply because the company will not pay fair wages and benefits?

Surely, the White House could have found other, more deserving companies to join the First Lady’s much-needed effort. In America, we can have good food and good jobs for those who produce and sell good food.

Statement by CWA President Larry Cohen on today’s White House event

Following is a statement by CWA President Larry Cohen on today’s White House event:

The Communications Workers of America commends First Lady Michelle Obama for her commitment to improving the lives of children and families across our country. However, companies like Walmart and others that pay poverty-level wages and deny workers the bargaining rights that would enable them to improve their own standard of living and have a voice on the job should not be applauded.

Times are tough for middle class and working families, because our economic system is broken. We change this by once again making collective bargaining a part of the fabric of the nation, and restoring the American Dream for millions of families who now are suffering. Bargaining rights are critical to any functioning democracy, and for a functioning economy.

But companies like Walmart refuse to acknowledge the critical importance of bargaining rights for our democracy and our economy.

Working families today are facing real economic crisis. They need good jobs, and the ability to bargain over wages, benefits and working conditions. While American workers are more productive than ever, they’re not sharing any of the benefits. Workers are falling further behind and it is companies like Walmart that contribute to this decline.

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