SMOKEY POINT — Walmart stores throughout Western Washington, including Arlington and Tulalip, became the sites of actions on Wednesday, Oct. 10, on behalf of Walmart employees across America who have protested their working conditions.
Elena Perez, a coordinator with the Making Change at Walmart Coalition of Puget Sound, stood outside the front doors of the Tulalip Walmart at 9 a.m. and the Arlington Walmart at 3 p.m. that day, accompanied by fellow activists and a number of Teamsters.
“We’re supporting the striking workers who have protested the unlawful labor practices of Walmart to ensure they won’t be subjected to retaliation due to unsafe working conditions,” said Perez, who noted that neither the Tulalip nor Arlington Walmart stores had any such striking workers that she was aware of.
Perez and her fellow activists took care to stand on either side of the Walmart’s entryways to maintain open flows of foot traffic while they handed out their informational pamphlets to Walmart shoppers and passersby.
“The responses we’ve received so far have been enthusiastic,” said Perez, shortly before Bob Lewis, assistant manager of the Arlington Walmart, stepped out of the store to meet with the group that was visiting his store that afternoon.
Perez asserted the group’s free speech rights to Lewis, who acknowledged them and agreed to allow them to remain on the premises so long as they did not block customer access to the store.
“We support our associates and have an open-door policy for dealing with our workers’ problems,” Lewis said. “We pay more than the average retailer and are ahead of the state’s minimum wage.”
The week before the Western Washington actions, Walmart associates in Los Angeles walked off the job, calling for an end to retaliation, while workers at Walmart-controlled warehouses in Chicago extended their strike to 21 days to protest retaliation. Western Washington workers were among those who rallied at the Bentonville, Ark., corporate headquarters of Walmart during its meeting of shareholders on Oct. 10.