Bay Area Walmart Workers Involved In Symbolic Walkout

A handful of workers at five Bay Area Walmart locations are at the heart of a nationwide campaign to organize the non-union chain.

A Fremont Walmart and four others in the Bay Area are at the center of a historic effort to organize Walmart, which has been non-union for 50 years.

Today, a handful of workers went on strike at stores in Fremont, San Leandro, Richmond, Oakland and San Jose, organizers said.

At publication time Walmart had not yet replied to an interview request.

The local walkouts are part of a symbolic nationwide campaign involving 28 stores in a dozen states, all coordinated by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).

Mike Henneberry, spokesperson for UFCW Local 5 in San Jose, offered the union's story.

Henneberry said the walkouts are designed to call attention to the organizing effort. There are no plans to walk picket lines because the union hasn't gotten to that point, he said.

The UFCW is focusing on the Bay Area because that's where Walmart is just starting to open a new category of smaller stores -- Walmart Neighborhood Markets -- that will compete directly with unionized grocers such as Safeway and Lucky, Henneberry said.

Walmart operates about 167 of these smaller stores nationwide but the first Neighborhood Market in Northern California opened last month in San Ramon.

Walmart plans to open a similar store in San Jose in October and another Neighborhood Market in Pleasanton mid-2013. 

The UFCW was particularly irate about Walmart's decision to build such a store in Pleasanton because that city is headquarters to unionized Safeway.

"Walmart's new move into the traditional grocery store sector is a departure in tactics on their part and a direct threat to our members," UFCW Local 5 President Ron Lind said in February when the Pleasanton store was up for consideration.

The Pleasanton city council approved Walmart's plans by a 4-1 vote.

A UFCW spokeswoman said many of the workers involved in today's walkout are meeting in Walmart's headquarters city of Bentonville, Arkansas, to plan their next steps.

Are you a Walmart shopper? Have you ever patronized a Neighborhood Walmart? What do you think of the organizing effort?


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Marian Bruns October 10, 2012 at 02:40 AM
As a longtime union member, I NEVER shop at any Walmart. I am delighted to see that there is some effort being put forward to organize these workers - and I will support them wholeheartedly.
James Nelson October 10, 2012 at 03:15 AM
I haven't inside a Walmart since getting Banned from one several years back. Some Buddies and I decided to play a quick game of In Store Football, and the Manager was none too pleased with us. Of course, I did clean up the mess I Personally made, and even offered to pay for the Limited Damage as a Result of our Game. Still, the guy had the balls to Ban Me! I've refused to step foot in one ever since.


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