As Wal-Mart celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer, it has faced a new wave of resistance from its “associates” — the company’s corporate-speak for employees. Last month, a delegation of Wal-Mart workers brought their grievances to the company’s shareholder meeting, including low wages and understaffing. In interviews yesterday, three workers at the forefront of the campaign told Salon the company has punished them for their activism. Critics say that the world’s largest private sector employer is playing dirty once again.
Last June, nearly 100 Wal-Mart employees announced the formation of a new membership organization called OUR Walmart, which demanded improvements on the job. Though backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, it hasn’t sought union recognition (UFCW also backed a previous non-union organization of Wal-Mart workers in 2005). OUR Walmart currently claims thousands of Wal-Mart workers in hundreds of stores as dues-paying members. As its efforts have escalated, OUR Walmart leaders say Wal-Mart has targeted them for punishment.