Economy

I Am A Walmart Worker. Here is Why I Am Striking Today...

November 28th 2014

By:
Cantare Davunt

I'm a 30 year old Customer Service Manager at Walmart in Apple Valley, Minnesota. 

I worked for Walmart for almost three years before I decided to go to college. I left because I had been fed up with the way Walmart took advantage of me, overlooked my potential, and didn’t appreciate my work ethic.

I have since graduated from the University of Minnesota, Duluth with a 4 year college degree in International Studies, and a minor in political science. I also know first-hand how bad it can be to graduate from college without having a job lined up. I left college with just under $25,000 in student debt and consider myself lucky. I had friends and classmates with $35,000 or more in debt.

After graduating, I knew my dream job would take rounds and rounds of interviews and tests. And I needed a job fast, especially since I grew up in a family bordering on the lower end of the middle-class so there was no way they could help me afford the costs of moving to a city that had better job prospects. Financially, I was on my own. Desperation placed me at the mercy of Walmart, the very company I tried to get an education to get away from. 

I came back to Walmart knowing what to expect, so I kept telling myself this was only temporary, just a few months and I’d have enough money to move to New York or D.C. and start looking for a better job. That was over 2 years ago, I’m still working at Walmart, but things haven't changed. Maybe not the stores I’ve worked at, but I’ve changed. 

Working at Walmart gives me uncertainty every day when I walk into the store and clock in. How bad will it be today? That’s my day; it’s not a question of if things will be good or bad, just how bad. How many cashiers did they short me today, how many will call in sick? Who do I have on the schedule today? Are they cross-trained to work other areas? Every workday at Walmart starts with that planning. I need to know who I have, and when their breaks are. But some days I can’t even get clocked in and on the floor, before I’m being called to assist a cashier with a customer.

I hear my cashiers and associates tell me about how they’re struggling, about how they can’t afford to make it to work, but that they can’t afford not to either. They’re not alone; I struggle to pay rent on the hours Walmart gives me. They won’t give me full-time, so there are times when I have to skip paying some bills, like student loans, electricity, and car payments—at least until my car was repossessed—now the money I thought I’d be saving on gas and car insurance, goes to paying for public transportation to get me around the cities to take care of things like applying for healthcare and food stamps since my employer won’t give me enough hours to live off of what I’m making now. 

 

 

Author Cantare Davunt is striking this Black Friday.

Gone are the days where we used to believe in that idea that if you worked hard at your job, you could get ahead. The story these days is much darker. It’s always a struggle because bills pile up, and up, and just keep coming, but the money stays the same. And that’s if I’m lucky. 

To me, the worst thing about working at Walmart isn’t just the poor pay or the under-staffing, it’s the way they make it your fault when things don’t get done on time. Recently Walmart promised to keep every register open on the weekends during the holidays, but what about the rest of the week? How am I supposed to keep up with customer traffic control during the busy shopping season, when we’re short- handed because all of our cashiers are scheduled during the weekend and off during the week? Walmart tells the public what they want to hear, but then expects us associates to deal with their lack of foresight and the backlash from customers. And all for what, so I can collect a paycheck and pay rent, and then survive on $6 dollars until the next paycheck? That’s not what I’d call American freedom; it’s not what I’d call prospering. It’s no way to live. 

It’s because of living on the edge like this that I decided to go on strike; I’m not going to keep living my life like a victim, struggling for scraps and crumbs. I’m a hard working American and a human being. I have an education and I deserve the opportunity to live off a paycheck, not hoping and begging for the government to extend welfare hand-outs. Many of my co-workers at my store support me, but they can’t afford to stand up and go on strike with me. They’re scared because every paycheck at Walmart could be your last. And when you’re living on the edge, it’s hard to take risks with your life. But we can’t keep living on the edge and expect that things will get better, and it’d be foolish to think that things would even stay the same. It’s up to us to make change happen.

I am on strike today because I believe that if I don’t stand up and fight to change Walmart and put a stop to their retaliation, it’s only going to get harder and harder for college students and the next generation to live a life with the level of dignity you’d expect of the developed world. My store manager retaliated against me earlier this week because I decided to stand up for another associate. She made accusations, exaggerated the facts and included false information to try and punish me for bringing up my concerns. I am standing up to Walmart and to my store manager by going on strike, because I believe our future is worth protecting.

It gets harder every day; it’s sad, but true. Today’s America is a different story if you work at Walmart; it’s a story that says goodbye to the American dream. We must change this.

To join a Walmart Strike, go to http://blackfridayprotests.org/