Walmart and the African American Community

  • Walmart jobs keep our communities in poverty. Even at Walmart’s new starting rate, a worker at Walmart’s definition of full-time would earn less than the 2016 federal poverty line for a family of two.
  • Walmart and the Waltons once supported the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has supported the notorious “Stand Your Ground” law as well as the recent spread of voter suppression legislation. Only following intense public pressure did Walmart finally withdraw from ALEC in 2012.
  • Between the death of unarmed Black father John Crawford in an Ohio Walmart and “Blackout Black Friday” protests after the Ferguson non-indictment, more and more people are drawing connections between Walmart, racial inequality, and economic inequality.

Stunning Disparity between the Wealth of the Walton Family and the Struggles of the African American Community

The Walton family, which owns Walmart, is the wealthiest family in America and is worth more than $120 billion. The Economic Policy Institute found that the Waltons’ wealth is equivalent to that of 79% of African American families combined. It would take the combined wealth of 11.9 million African American families with average net worth to equal the wealth of the Waltons.

Walmart Keeps Our Communities in Poverty

Walmart is the largest private employer of African Americans in the United States. Nearly 46% of Walmart’s 1.5 million US workers are African American.

Following public pressure, Walmart raised its starting pay to $9.00/hour in 2015. Even at that rate, a worker at Walmart’s definition of full-time (34 hours per week) would earn less than the 2016 federal poverty line for a family of two. In 2014, 9% of adult retail workers were part-time even though they wanted full-time hours, nearly double the rate of working adults overall.

People of Color Underrepresented in Walmart Management

Minorities are disproportionately represented in low-paying positions at Walmart. People of color made up 42% of Walmart’s US workforce in 2015, meanwhile only 31% of management and 22% of corporate officers were people of color.

Racist Remarks by Walmart Manager

In 2014, a National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge issued a sweeping decision against Walmart for its illegal actions against workers at two California stores. In the decision, the Administrative Law Judge notes that “some associates were offended when [Walmart manager] Van Riper stated ‘if it was up to me, I would put that rope around your neck’ when associate Markeith Washington put a rope around his (Washington’s) waist to assist with moving a heavy counter.” Workers at the Richmond store sent a letter to the company about this manager which stated, “By using racist remarks and threats of physical violence towards Associates he has created a work environment that is threatening, harassing and intimidating.”

Walmart is a Job Killer in Our Communities

Walmart store openings destroy almost three local jobs for every two they create by reducing retail employment by an average of 2.7 percent in every county they enter.

The Waltons & Walmart Supported Voter Suppression and ‘Stand Your Ground Laws’ through ALEC

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is a controversial group infamous for promoting legislation that advances a conservative ideological agenda and benefits its members at the expense of everyone else. Walmart was a longtime member of ALEC, and the Walton Family Foundation was also a Chairman level sponsor of ALEC’s 2011 annual meeting.

ALEC helped propagate the notorious “Stand Your Ground” law linked to the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida in February 2012. The law, which initially shielded Martin’s shooter from arrest in weeks following the killing, came out of an ALEC working committee co-chaired by a Walmart executive in 2005.1

Other legislation supported by ALEC and its members includes the voter suppression laws that have been enacted in 36 states. Supporters of discriminatory voter ID laws claim they want to reduce voter fraud, but such fraud almost never actually occurs, and never in amounts large enough to impact the result of elections. These laws have a disproportionate impact on the poor, the elderly, and people of color.

In May 2012, amid intense public pressure, Walmart withdrew from ALEC.

Walmart & Race in 2014

In 2014, a number of incidents highlighted the connection between police violence and the economic violence of poverty that disproportionately impacts communities of color, especially African Americans.

In August of 2014, 22-year-old African American father John Crawford was fatally shot by Ohio police for carrying an unloaded BB gun through a Walmart store (in an open carry state). Protests demanding justice for John Crawford ensued at both Walmart and the Xenia Courthouse, where a grand jury chose not to indict the officer responsible for Crawford’s death.

For a period of time after the shooting, Walmart refused to publicly release the surveillance tape of Crawford’s death, even after requests from Crawford’s family. Meanwhile, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine who claimed releasing the tape to the public would bias the jury, showed the tape to Ronald Ritchie – the man who called police on Crawford and a key witness for the prosecution.

In November of 2014, a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer responsible for the death of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked nationwide protests. Groups in Ferguson as well as allied groups in cities like Washington, D.C. (#DCFerguson) targeted Walmart among other retailers in a series of protests against racial inequality in America.

Groups across the country protesting racial inequality after the Ferguson non-indictment also boycotted major retailers, including Walmart, on Black Friday – one of the corporation’s major annual sales days – at the same time Walmart workers held the largest strike in Walmart history. Montague Simmons, Ferguson organizer from St. Louis-based Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) told Al Jazeera, “Walmart became a specific target because of its tendency to pay very low wages and push back against workers that are actually trying to organize.”

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