The Disturbing Truth about Walmart, the Walton Family and the Latino 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.
  • In May 2014, Walmart and one of its major logistics contractors agreed to a $21 million settlement in a long-running wage theft case.
  • In April 2011, Walmart paid to settle a suit claiming harassment of Latinos who endured racial slurs and derogatory remarks at work.
  • Walmart and the Waltons once supported the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has worked to oppose a path to citizenship and to write Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 law. Only following intense public pressure did Walmart finally withdraw from ALEC in 2012.

Walmart Keeps Our Communities in Poverty

Walmart is the largest employer of Latinos in the United States. About 14% of Walmart’s 1.3 million U.S. workers are Latino.

Unfortunately, Walmart jobs keep our communities in poverty. 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 contrast, the Economic Policy Institute found that the Waltons’ wealth is equivalent to that of 78% of Latino families in the U.S. combined. It would take the combined wealth of 10.6 million Latino families with average net worth to equal the wealth of the Waltons.

People of color are underrepresented in management jobs at Walmart

Walmart’s low wages are not good for any workers, but minorities are disproportionately represented in low-paying positions. While people of color made up 42% of Walmart’s U.S. workforce in 2015, only 31% of management and 22% of corporate officers were people of color.

Racism against Mexican workers

In April 2011, Walmart paid $440,000 to settle an EEOC suit claiming harassment of Latinos at a Sam’s Club in Fresno, California. According to the EEOC, at least nine employees of Mexican descent and one who was married to someone of Mexican descent endured regular ethnic slurs and derogatory remarks from a fellow co-worker. The victims were told that Mexicans are only good for cleaning homes and were called “f—-n’ wetbacks,” and despite the victims’ legal status, their harasser even reported three of them to immigration authorities.

Exploiting Latino workers in Walmart’s supply chain

Guestworkers at Walmart supplier experience abusive conditions

In June 2012, guestworkers from Mexico at a Walmart seafood supplier based in Louisiana went on strike to protest abusive working conditions, including rat-infested housing, long hours without overtime pay, and threats made against workers and their families to intimidate them from organizing. Workers at the seafood company, CJ’s Seafood, were said to work up to 24 hours straight without overtime pay. They paid $45 of their earnings per week to live in crowded trailers with vermin and no air conditioning, according to one worker. These conditions were documented in a complaint filed with the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

After its first “investigation,” Walmart announced that it was “unable to substantiate claims of forced labor or human trafficking” at CJ’s. However, it quickly became obvious that the company had not even followed up with the workers who lodged the complaints. Walmart finally announced, weeks later, that it was suspending its contract with CJ’s pending its investigation.

Walmart’s contracted warehouse operators illegally exploit predominately Latino workforce

Walmart’s contractors run a massive national distribution and warehouse network that employs a largely Latino workforce. Warehouse operators have repeatedly violated health and safety standards, creating unsafe and unhealthy working conditions that have caused widespread injuries to warehouse workers.

In August 2011, workers at NFI Industries, a third-party logistics provider in Chino, CA, which moves Walmart products, filed complaints with Cal/OSHA regarding excessive heat, dangerous speed quotas resulting in repetitive stress injuries, broken and defective machinery leading to dangerous incidents, and dust and chemical inhalation causing dizziness and nosebleeds.

In January 2012, Cal/OSHA’s High Hazard Unit found serious violations of the labor code at NFI and cited them for a total fine of $257,000, an unprecedented fine in the warehouse industry.

Wage theft from Latino workers in California

In May 2014, Walmart and one of its logistics contractors agreed to a $21 million settlement in a long-running wage theft case. Latino workers at Schneider Logistics, a major Walmart logistics contractor in Mira Loma, CA, filed a federal suit against Schneider and two labor agencies contracted by Schneider in October 2011. In January 2013, a federal judge ruled that Walmart could be added as a defendant in the case.

The complaint detailed widespread wage-theft resulting from a piece-rate system for unloading containers, failure to pay employees for the time they actually worked, and other violations of state and federal wage and hour law.

The violations were so significant and apparent that the Court issued a preliminary injunction against both labor agencies and Schneider to remedy their payroll systems and wage and hour practices to avoid irreparable harm to the workers. From 2001 to 2013, it was estimated that these workers were defrauded of tens of millions of dollars.

When Latino workers have stood up, companies have retaliated

In both of the cases referred to above, Latino workers who stepped forward to file complaints or legal action have been retaliated against through firings, threats, captive audience meetings, demotions, reduced hours, changed shifts and other punitive measures. In September 2012, workers at warehouses in California that supply Walmart stores went on strike in response to illegal retaliation by their employers.

Anti-immigrant political activities

Supporting SB 1070 and other anti-immigrant legislation through ALEC

Until recently, both Walmart and the Walton family were members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization with a history of promoting anti-immigrant model legislation. While Walmart withdrew from ALEC in response to public pressure in May 2012, the Walton Family Foundation apparently remains a member.

Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 was written at an ALEC conference in 2009. ALEC’s board also pushed for a law that compelled local government to enforce federal immigration laws and pushed for the elimination of birthright citizenship in January 2008, a right established by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. ALEC also opposed federal legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, using fear-mongering language about “illegal-alien [sic] gang members, criminals, and terrorists” becoming U.S. citizens.