Walmart owners have wealth equal to almost half of South Africa GDP
The Walton family, the mega rich owners of Walmart, have a combined wealth equal to almost half of the GDP of South Africa - this is just one of the findings of new research by UNI Global Union ahead of worldwide protests against Walmart’s working conditions today.
Protests in Johannesburg will call for the world’s largest employer and its owners to provide decent wages and jobs and to fix the appalling labour practices used in the company’s stores, warehouses and supply chain.
UNI Global Union represents 20 million workers worldwide and is the global union for the commerce sector. UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “Walmart workers around the world are fed up with barely scraping by on poverty pay, precarious contracts and terrible working conditions. We demand a living wage for all Walmart workers, including those in South Africa.”
“The gross inequality between a South African worker and the Walton family underscores the injustice of the Walmart business model. That is why Walmart workers and their supporters will be out in force from Sao Paulo to South Africa, from Bentonville to Bombay and beyond.”
Jennings added, “Next month we will hold the UNI Global Union World Congress in Cape Town, where over 2000 union leaders will add their voices to the call for Walmart to treat their workers decently. A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay – that is a basic human right.”
Walmart’s merger with Massmart in South Africa was the subject of a joint study into the impact on local suppliers. Leading US economist Joseph Stiglitz representing the South African government recognized the threat and disruption represented by Walmart’s entry when he said that Walmart should contribute up to R2 billion over 5-10 years to the supplier fund rather than the R100 million originally agreed. UNI Global Union continues to monitor Walmart’s slow progress to fulfilling its obligations. UNI along with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) UFCW were part of a global labour coalition which brought Walmart’s anti-worker activities to the attention of the South African authorities during its take-over of Massmart.
- The Walton family is worth $150 billion – a wealth that grows by more than $8 million a day.
- Coordinated action will take place in more than 10 countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, and the U.S.
- The workers’ message to Walmart and the Waltons is simple: Walmart must pay its 2.2 million workers at its stores and countless more in its supply chain a living wage and treat them with dignity.
Workers, along with members of the UNI Walmart Global Union Alliance, will be taking their grievances to the street, calling on the Walton family who controls Walmart to use their power and wealth to change the company’s culture.
In Gurgaon, India protesters will assemble outside of Walmart’s headquarters in India to call on Walmart to respect the rights of street vendors across India by ensuring fair competition.
In Miami, USA , protestors, including Walmart workers that are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), are gathering outside Walmart’s Latin American headquarters to ask Walmart and its billionaire owners, the Waltons, to pay its workers $15 an hour and provide full-time, consistent hours. They are standing with other Walmart workers around the world in the Global Day for Decent Work at Walmart and will deliver petitions backing their call for $15 per hour and full-time work. Outside the headquarters, Walmart workers will speak about their experiences under Walmart working conditions.
In Mexico City, Mexico, protestors will gather at the Walmart headquarters to denounce the company’s handling of the corruption allegations and for treatment of workers.
November 19, 2014 also marks the announcement of Walmart’s nomination for the “Lifetime Worst Corporation Award.” Walmart receives this nomination primarily because of its abysmal failure to address adequately the safety concerns of workers in Bangladesh and to compensate the families whose loved ones perished more than 18 months ago in the Rana Plaza building collapse where it is believed that Walmart was sourcing garments during the time of the collapse. Online voting is available at www.publiceye.ch/case/walmart.
UNI’s global demands of Walmart are simple:
- Living Wages: Extremely low wages along with inconsistent scheduling makes it difficult for workers in many countries to support their families. Fair pay and more hours would allow them to pay their bills and have enough associates in the store to take care of customers.
- Employment Security: The imposition of part-time work, casual employment contracts or – as in the case of Walmart’s 1.4 million U.S. workers – no contracts at all, means that many have no employment security. We are asking that full time, permanent work be the rule rather than the exception.
- Respect: Workers who assert their freedom of association in an attempt to resolve issues or improve working conditions frequently face retribution from the company. They are harassed and intimidated by management when they try to voice concerns. We are asking for respect, safety and job security when we speak out.
For images and updates throughout the global action day, please follow #WalmartGlobal and visit ActionNetwork.org to view a global map of all activities.
Notes to Editors
South Africa GDP = 341.2 billion USD source: "IMF World Economic Outlook, October 2014," cited here: http://knoema.com/nwnfkne/world-gdp-ranking-2014-data-and-charts
Walton family wealth = estimated 150 billion USD
= 0.44 of South Africa GDP.