Occupy Walmart: Non-Unionized Employees Protest Health-Care Cuts Outside Paramount Superstore | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Health & Nutrition

Occupy Walmart: Non-Unionized Employees Protest Health-Care Cuts Outside Paramount Superstore

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Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 10:10 AM

click to enlarge Shiny happy Walmart in Paramount.
  • Shiny happy Walmart in Paramount.
Public-employee unions -- and, of course, the Sacramento politicians they paid for -- are ripping into California Governor Jerry Brown today for his (really quite reasonable) proposal to trim down state pension plans and save around $900 million.

So if we may: Please direct your attention to about 50 private-sector workers pumping their picket signs in Paramount this morning. They have a much quieter voice, but they're in a lot more danger. America's largest employer -- Walmart, of the happy-face stickers and glorious toilet-paper aisle -- is threatening to cut health-care benefits to impossible lows.

This, despite the fact that Walmart...

... is "one of the only stores to thrive during the U.S. recession," according to a 2009 report by Forbes.

Talk about the 1 percent. Three members of the Walton family are in the Top 10 of Forbes' "400 Richest Americans" this year -- the closest thing our capitalist "democracy" has to royal blood. Note to Occupy L.A.: Screw the teachers union. They've got it covered. If you want to march against corporate greed with starving workers, Walmart is the place to do it.

Oh, right. This is why unions were invented. Too bad they've bloated into politicking monsters in the public sector, while remaining painfully blockaded from those warehouses that need them the most.

click to enlarge Dan Hindman at the Walmart protest. (Interview below.) - COURTESY OF MOIRA BULLOCH
  • Courtesy of Moira Bulloch
  • Dan Hindman at the Walmart protest. (Interview below.)
Though Walmart workers aren't allowed to join unions, United Food and Commercial Workers helped them arrange the protest outside the Paramount superstore this morning. It's no surprise UFCW gives a damn -- due to the chain's immense size, its labor contracts sadly set the standard for surrounding stores and U.S. business on a whole.

It's the same reason Burbank residents, shop owners and even nearby megastore workers are resisting, albeit in vain, a new Walmart coming into town. In other terrifying news, the Waltons reportedly plan to do the same damn thing at 15 more locations around Southern California, now that they've found a city-planning loophole and Governor Brown has vetoed the only remaining legislation in their path.

Here's what UFCW (alongside Organization United for Respect at Walmart, the unofficial group of workers that keeps an eye on corporate happenings) says is going down within the evil empire:

In the past year, Walmart has cut profit sharing, quarterly bonuses, and Sunday premium pay for associates. Now healthcare is on the chopping block, with premiums and deductibles going up for all associates who are still eligible for coverage. Any new associate working less than 24 hours a week will no longer qualify, and those working between 24 and 34 hours will not be eligible for Walmart's healthcare in their first year.

All this, remember, within a multibillion-dollar company that could easily treat its workers to Beverly Hills mani-pedis every day from now until eternity, and still come out the richest mofo in America.

Protester Dan Hindman, who works as a cellphone tech for Walmart after having earned his computer-science degree, says his biweekly paycheck is about $300. More than half of that goes to child support for his four-year-old son (Hindman shares joint custody). Another $80 goes into his healthcare plan. Today, he tells the Weekly that he's barely making ends meet as it is, and "won't be able to survive" under new cuts.

(Props also to Assemblyman Warren Furutani, who showed up in solidarity today.)

"Walmart can really do whatever it wants," says Moira Bulloch, a spokeswoman for UFCW. And that's a damn frightening prospect for all of us.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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