Wal-Mart workers fasting for a $15 wage

Wal-Mart workers fasting for a $15 wage
© Getty Images

Wal-Mart employees who say they don’t make enough money to put food on their own tables are fasting — some for as many as 15 days, until after Thanksgiving — to pressure one of the nation’s top grocery stores to raise minimum wages to $15 an hour.

The Wal-Mart fasters are part of a growing movement of low-wage workers around the country who are pushing for higher pay.  

ADVERTISEMENT
As many as 1,000 people, including 100 Wal-Mart workers, will join the fast in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, the popular shopping day that follows Thanksgiving. Some plan to fast for the entire duration, while others will stop eating for only a day or two, or rely on a “liquid diet” to sustain themselves.

Wal-Mart's “workers can’t even afford to buy groceries there,” said Andrea Dehlendorf, co-executive director of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart.

“The number of people willing to go hungry to call out Wal-Mart's injustice is simply unheard of,” she added.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart announced it would gradually increase its minimum wage to $10 an hour by February 2016.

“False attacks and media stunts from the unions have become an annual tradition this time of year,” Wal-Mart spokesman Brian Nick responded in a statement. 

But the Wal-Mart fasters do not believe the increases are enough.

The Wal-Mart workers say they often share sandwiches during their lunch breaks because some employees can’t afford to buy their own meals.

“Many of the conversations in the break room were about getting gas on the way home, or getting something to eat,” said Denise Barlage, a former Wal-Mart employee who is joining the fast. “These are decisions no one should have to make."

“Even worse, I see Walmart throw away food every day all the time,” said Jasmine Dixon, a Wal-Mart employee in Denver.

Nancy Reynolds, a Wal-Mart employee in Florida, is organizing a petition for Wal-Mart to offer employees a 10 percent discount on food.

Wal-Mart employees say this could go a long way toward ending hunger.

"My mother grew up during the Great Depression, and she passed on some lessons of how to get through difficult times,” Reynolds said.