NERMEEN SHAIKH: Historic labor protests against the nation’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart, are expanding to 28 stores in 12 states. Organizers are describing the actions as the first retail worker strike in Wal-Mart’s 50-year history. The strike began last week in Los Angeles and has spread to stores in Dallas; Seattle; the San Francisco Bay Area; Miami; the Washington, D.C., area; Sacramento; Chicago; and Orlando.
Wal-Mart workers are not unionized and have long complained of poor working conditions and inadequate wages. According to organizers, employees are protesting company attempts to, quote, "silence and retaliate against workers for speaking out for improvements on the job." This is Wal-Mart associate Carlton Smith speaking in June at Wal-Mart’s annual shareholder meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas.
CARLTON SMITH: Last year, you made a commitment to us that there would be no retaliation for associates who choose to organize together to help Wal-Mart better, but we continue to experience retaliation against associates who speak out for change.
AMY GOODMAN: Some striking Wal-Mart associates plan to protest again today at a Wal-Mart annual investor meeting at its headquarters in Bentonville. Wal-Mart did not respond to Democracy Now!’s request for comment.
To find out more about the significance of this strike, we go first to Bentonville to talk to Mike Compton, a Wal-Mart warehouse employee in Elwood, Illinois. And in New York, we’re joined by Josh Eidelson, a contributing writer for Salon and In These Times. He broke the story of the Wal-Mart store strikes last week. His most recent piece for Salon is called "Walmart Strikes Spread to More States."
Welcome to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Josh in New York. Can you set the stage for us? What is happening all over this country?