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art by Favianna Rodriguez

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

“ Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ” – Paulo Freire, Educator

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NOVEMBER 09, 2014 / BY EDDIE INY Hot Off the Presses: Walton Family, Owners of Walmart Now Have More Than 78% of U.S. Latino Families Combined
You’ve probably seen some recent talk about the Walton Family – the richest family in the United States, heirs to the Walmart fortune, and owners of Walmart. The Walton family now has more than $150 billion. Four of the top 10 richest Americans are Waltons. Last week, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute crunched some new numbers that we think help put some of those numbers into perspective for the Latino community. He concluded that the Walton Family has more wealth than 78% of U.S. Latino families combined. Another way of looking at this – it would take 10.6 million families with the median net worth of Hispanic families to add up to the wealth of the Waltons.

This is particularly outrageous since Walmart is also one of the largest employers of Latinos in the United States. And, we’ve pointed out before that a job at Walmart is hardly a guarantee of a good job. With the majority of workers making less than $25,000 a year, Walmart’s low pay, inconsistent scheduling and poor working conditions leave many Latino families struggling to make ends meet and provide for their children.

Several of the Walton heirs live in states with huge Latino communities. Walmart Board chairman Rob Walton lives in Arizona, in the elite, largely gated community of Paradise Valley. Alice Walton lives in Texas, although she also recently purchased a $25 million apartment in New York City.

Walmart Fires Latino Leaders Who Speak Out
When Walmart workers call on the Waltons to commit to $15 an hour and full-time hours, Walmart tries to silence them with illegal threats and retaliation. Just last week, three brave Latino leaders in a store in Pico Rivera, CA were fired by Walmart. One of the workers, Evelin Cruz, had just posted this on her Facebook page: "We can't pay our bills, but we can STRIKE against Walmart's illegal retaliation. I am ready to strike!" Evelin was fired the next day. But she is committed to continue fighting for justice for all Walmart workers and is continuing to organize her former co-workers to take action.

Walmart’s poor treatment of Latino workers, unfortunately, extends beyond the walls of supercenters. In May, 2014, Walmart and one of its contracted warehouse operators, Schneider Logistics, reached a $2 million settlement with warehouse workers in a lawsuit alleging wide-spread wage theft by the company. As the Huffington Post explained, the workers alleged that “they were forced to work on piece rate in dangerously hot conditions moving Walmart goods, and that when they complained about the working conditions they were threatened with their jobs.”

Economists and politicians continue to debate income inequality in the United States in an abstract manner. These aren’t simply academic exercises. The harsh reality is that the very rich are getting richer, while the rest of us are struggling with less. This is no more apparent than in the disparity between the Waltons and the hundreds of thousands of workers they rely on to make $16 billion in profits each year.

And yet, as the largest private employer in the U.S., the Waltons have the ability to address the growing inequality created in the Walmart economy. Demos and others have written about how Walmart, with its billions of dollars in profits, and the Waltons, with their enormous and growing wealth, could take immediate and decisive action raise wages for all Walmart workers.

As Black Friday, 2014, the busiest day of the year for retailers and a regular day of protest for Walmart workers and their allies, approaches, we hope that Walmart and the Waltons will consider just this kind of decisive action.

Join in a protest or start your own at BlackFridayProtests.org! Let's support Walmart workers and call on Walmart to support our community by paying workers enough to live on!