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Posted: October 1, 2013

Lessons learned from the Wal-Mart campaign

IBEW 1245 activists share their experience


Joining in the fight against Wal-Mart at the Sept. 5 action are, from left, Justin Casey, Georgette Carrillo, Khalid Saleem (IBEW 340), Jammi Juarez, Bill Camp (Executive Secretary, Sacramento Central Labor Council, Jennifer Gray, Tim Cunnane, Delbert Azevedo, Kristin Garcia, Gabi Eakin.

From left are Sterling Able (IBEW Local 617), Mia Rivas (IBEW Local 595), Mike Casey (President, UNITE HERE Local 2 SF), Fred Ross, Eileen Purcell, and Logan Jonas at the Sept. 5 Wal-Mart action.

From left are Jammi Juarez, Rey Mendoza and family, and Georgette Carrillo Jonas at the Sept. 5 Wal-Mart action.

By Justin Casey

Working on the OUR Walmart campaign this summer was an interesting experience. I've always known of the struggles that Walmart associates went through due to low wages, but after working with them for the past three months, it became much more real to me.

Being a part of the Ride for Respect caravan to Bentonville, Arkansas was definitely a journey. I got to meet current and former Walmart associates from all over the country and the majority of their stories were exactly the same: poor wages, no health care and not enough hours per week to be able to provide for their families.

In the beginning of this campaign member recruitment was the main objective, but after associates were fired illegally for going on an Unfair Labor Practice strike our focus changed. Having the opportunity to meet with and gain support of Assembly members and Senators, Sacramento city council members and various faith leaders in the community was something new to me. Before this summer I hadn't even visited the State Capital or City Hall

I have learned a lot about politics and how things work, although I know there is much more to learn. I became more familiar with my local Central Labor Council and met some good allies. Eric Sunderland and the rest of the folks at the Democratic Party of Sacramento office were more than hospitable, and allowed us to use their office whenever needed. We also helped them a bit with trying to stop the repeal of the big box ordinance. Unfortunately we were not able to do so.

I attended my first City council meeting in Sacramento and I am looking forward to attending one in my home town of Placer County. I always learn something new when working on 1245 assignments and look forward to the next one.

By Jammi Juarez

The OUR Walmart campaign taught me the importance of community ally support. I was honored to help be the voice for the workers. They would share with us, but were not comfortable going public. However, we successfully had a current associate Margaret Hooten speak at the September 5th Action. She shared her story for the first time. It was also her first time in front of a large crowd. She found the courage to stand up and speak out.

We included the OUR Walmart topic on our monthly Electrical Worker Minority Caucus Youth Conference call and invited everyone to participate nationwide. We had several brothers and sisters at the Sept. 5 action across the country. We submitted a few op-ed pieces as well as invited every news channel to cover the action on Sept. 5. We were able to share the workers’ stories through the media.

We were able to organize two successful actions, July 26 and Sept. 5. The July action resulted in a face to face meeting for the three fired Placerville workers with the Market Manager. The September action gave the workers nationwide media coverage of the issue. The 54 California Assembly and Senate member signatures on the anti-retaliation/ reinstate letter gave the fired workers hope and helped them realize they were not alone. We conducted meetings with seven of the eight Sacramento City Council members. The workers attended these meetings. It gave them a platform to speak out against the unfair treatment they experienced and to educate others.

We worked hard to develop relationships with local religious leaders such as Pastor Don Lee, Bishop Jaime Soto, Basim Elkarra, Rabbi Reuven Taff, and Reverend Phil Konz. Both Bishop Soto and Pastor Lee participated at the actions. All interfaith leaders agreed to sign the national letter. These relationships made throughout the campaign are very important and we hope to maintain them.

The support and solidarity we witnessed firsthand by the Democratic Party, elected officials –Senate, Assembly, and City Council—labor affiliates and staff of the Sacramento Central Labor Council was truly overwhelming. This summer campaign allowed me to develop my leadership skills and gain the confidence to run a successful campaign.