“Good morning, everyone. My name is Venanzi Luna and I’m on strike.” With those words, today’s rally at the Pico Rivera Walmart made history as the first ever strike of Walmart workers in the United States.
More than 300 people descended on the store to support the nearly 75 workers who walked off the job today to protest retaliation by the corporate giant. Associates from other stores across Los Angeles, including Duarte, Panorama City and Orange County also joined in the walkout and attended the landmark event. Associates who are members of the group Our Walmart were recently fired for speaking about the cutting of hours, reductions in health benefits and poverty jobs that force many to seek out public assistance programs to stay afloat.
Workers, joined by their spouses and children, cheered and nodded in agreement as fellow store associates talked about what they hoped to achieve by standing up. Holding signs that read, “Stand Up. Live Better,” “Stop Cutting Hours” and “Respect Work. Rebuild America,” warehouse workers, teachers, school employees, truck drivers, janitors and car wash workers applauded the courageous Walmart associates for standing up to the largest corporation in the world. Speakers acknowledged the leadership of the Inland Empire warehouse workers whose 15-day strike a month ago started the ball rolling.
The crowd roared as Maria Elena Durazo, the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, boiled down the effect of Walmart into one sentence: “The thing Walmart sells the most is poverty.”
Community leaders and groups, including the Southern California Leadership Conference (SCLC), Los Amigos and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), joined the action. Reverend Eric Lee of SCLC and Dr. Jose Moreno of Los Amigos called on Walmart and its CEO, Mike Duke, to end the bullying of workers, and committed themselves to standing by the workers in their struggle for justice.