MAKING CHANGE AT WALMART CALLS OUT WALMART’S ANTI-LGBT PRACTICES

In open letter citing Walmart’s long history of discrimination allegations and unfair practices, MCAW calls on LGBT Pride organizations to reject Walmart donations 

Washington, DC — Making Change at Walmart (MCAW), the national campaign change Walmart into a more responsible company, and the United Food and Commercial Workers’ OUTreach group, released an open letter to the nation’s leading LGBT Pride organizations calling for them to reject Walmart’s donations because of the retailer’s long history of allowing LGBT discrimination in its stores.

The new initiative is part of a larger MCAW national campaign, to be launched during Pride Month, that is calling on leading LGBT organizations to speak out against Walmart’s anti-LGBT practices. MCAW will also be educating Walmart customers and the LGBT community about the company’s real record on LGBT issues in front of Walmart stores and at Pride events throughout the country. As part of the education effort, grassroots actions will be held in at least 17 cities during Pride parades or celebrations.

“Walmart’s donations to Pride events is nothing more than an attempt to rainbow-wash its troubling history,” said Jess Levin, communications director at MCAW. “The truth is that Walmart all but ignores when LGBT customers and employees face harassment, bigotry and discrimination in its stores. We don’t expect Walmart to share its real record with Pride organizations, let alone the American people, but we will.”

An excerpt from the open letter addressed to New York City PrideBoston PrideSeattle PrideDenver PrideFestSan Diego LGBT PrideNorthwest Arkansas Pride and Cincinnati Pride:

“As you may know, one of the corporations sponsoring Pride events in your city is Walmart. Walmart is the nation’s largest employer and millions of Americans shop there every day. Their actions – or lack of action – matter. When it comes to LGBT issues, the sad reality is that they are trying to pass themselves off as an ally to the LGBT community by writing checks, while ignoring allegations of discrimination and hate. This must stop, and it must stop now.”

The letter in its entirety is below.
BACKGROUND

June 10, 2016

TO: LGBT Pride committees

FROM: The United Food and Commercial Workers’ Making Change at Walmart campaign

We want to first thank you for all that you have done to lead this nation forward and help build an America that one day, hopefully soon, will be rid of discrimination and hate. Sadly, there are still too many examples of hate and discrimination, especially within corporate America. We believe that our nation’s leading employers must be held to a higher standard. They can’t be allowed to sit silent or ignore the responsibility of their actions.

As you may know, one of the corporations sponsoring Pride events in your city is Walmart. Walmart is the nation’s largest employer and millions of Americans shop there every day. Their actions – or lack of action – matter. When it comes to LGBT issues, the sad reality is that they are trying to pass themselves off as an ally to the LGBT community by writing checks, while ignoring allegations of discrimination and hate. This must stop, and it must stop now.

We understand that Walmart may not share these allegations of discriminations with you, but we believe you deserve to know the truth about how Walmart treats LGBT employees and customers in its stores.

Walmart has a long history of supporting and promoting LGBT discrimination. Here are a few recent examples:

  • Other retailers have shown their support for the transgender community by either providing unisex bathrooms or by publicly announcing that transgender people are free to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Yet, Walmart has stayed silent. They stayed silent even after a woman was harassed in their store after being mistaken as transgender. They stayed silent even after a New York Daily News reporter contacted them every day for a week. MCAW and UFCW OUTreach noted at the time that Walmart’s silence is not only callous, it is dangerous. It allows bigotry to get a free pass. 
  • Jacqueline Cote, a former Walmart employee, filed a class-action lawsuit against Walmart in 2015, alleging that the retailer denied employee benefits to same-sex couples. Starting in 2008, she repeatedly tried to add her wife to her Walmart health plan and was rejected by the online system. Cote was told that same-sex spouses were not covered. Her wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 and the couple incurred $150,000 in medical expenses. Walmart has not listened to calls from LGBT and worker groups to settle the case and, instead, is fighting it. 
  • Robert Samantha Azzarano, a former Walmart employee, also filed a discrimination suit against the company in 2015. She accuses the retailer of harassing and firing her for being transgender. The lawsuit says she was called “tranny” and “he/she” by a manager at work. That same manager started disciplining her and eventually fired her even though Azzarano had no problems with job performance prior to the manager coming to her store.

Because of this history of alleged discrimination and unfair treatment, Making Change at Walmart and UFCW OUTreach are calling on you to rethink the support you receive from Walmart. They should not be allowed to use your great work to hide their behavior or lack of action. The time has come for them to address these allegations of hate and discrimination head on.

Now, more than ever, we can’t look away when the nation’s largest employer fails to live up the standard that we expect. The time has come for them to change.

We hope you strongly consider returning their donation and joining with us in building a national movement to change Walmart for the better.