Organized labor, protesting workers and other activist groups have been saying for years that low-wage Walmart employees can’t afford to meet basic needs like food. Now, one Cleveland, Ohio, location is doing something about it: soliciting food donations from other workers.
In an employees-only section of the store, management has placed two bins underneath a sign reading, “Please donate food items here so Associates in Need can enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” local paperThe Plain Dealer reported on Monday. Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg told the newspaper that it is for employees “who have had some hardships come up.”
“This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” said Lundberg.
The majority of Walmart employees reportedly make less than $25,000 annually, and many of them rely on food stamps. A case study compiled by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that employees in one Walmart location received between $96,007 and $219,528 in food stamps over the course of a single year.
“I know a lot of people who experience going to food banks,” wrote Walmart employee Tiffany Beroid in a comment posted on the Plain Dealer website. ”I actually have a lot of food bank numbers written down that people ask me for on regular basis because they know I’m active.”
Beroid is a member of OUR Walmart, the labor-backed organization demanding higher wages and improved working conditions from America’s largest employer. On a conference called organized by OUR Walmart, MoveOn.org’s Anna Galland accused Walmart of “essentially asking taxpayers to pay for what they should be paying their workers.”
Walmart is not alone there. Last month, a McDonald’s representative advised a low-wage employee to apply for food stamps after the employee said that she was struggling to make ends meet. The families of fast food employees receive about $1 billion in food stamps per year, according to researchers from the University of California Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Walmart employees who rely on food banks and food stamps may be under even more stress than usual this month. On November 1, all 47 million food stamp recipients in the United States received an automatic cut to their benefits, amounting to $5 billion total.
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