With just a few days until Christmas, one would expect Santa to be overseeing production of the thousands of toys for little boys and girls this holiday season.
But he, along with several look-a-likes, was out protesting Thursday morning at the Factoria Walmart. Lyrics such as “Walmart, Walmart, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side,” rang out before Factoria mall security told them they had to leave.
Dressed in Santa and Grinch garb, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 21, which does not represent Walmart workers, said they were rallying to demand Walmart bring back holiday pay for employees it eliminated in 2016.
“I would say that in a time like this, in a time where Santa, where gifts, where compassion should be, we should be giving to one another,” UFCW organizer Jenny Divish said. “They’re taking away from their workers and I really think Walmart can do better and pay their workers holiday pay.”
However, Walmart spokesperson Blake Jackson said they haven’t taken away anything.
After pointing out the UFCW represents workers from Walmart’s competitors, such as Fred Meyer, Albertsons and Safeway, among others, Jackson said Walmart employees still get their six holidays. However, instead of dividing their paid time off into categories, it’s all in one pool for them to use at their discretion.
“Walmart’s paid time off program is designed to give associates more stability in their lives,” Jackson said. “Both full- and part-time associates receive a paid day for each Walmart holiday, and it’s important that our people have the control and flexibility to decide how they use that extra paid time. At the end of the year, hourly associates can rollover some unused PTO and can cash out the remainder to use as they please.”
However, holiday time, like the rest of employees’ paid time off, is accrued.
Amy Ritter, a spokeswoman with the UFCW’s Making Change at Walmart campaign, said their policy means a new part-time worker has to work 43.33 hours to get one hour of paid time off, “or 173 hours to pay for one four-hour shift off.”
“Walmart can’t have it both ways,” she said. “When they ‘streamlined’ their PTO system, they put vacation days, holiday days, sick days, etc. into one big pot that, for example, a new part-time worker can’t get anywhere near unless they work more than 40 hours to get just one. Walmart needs to do what is right and pay their workers holiday pay – they’ve earned it.”
Jackson said full-time associates can earn 304 hours of PTO, based on tenure, while part-time workers can earn 144 hours, also based on tenure. Furthermore, all stores are closed on Christmas, he said.
Citing a 2014 Walmart statement, the UFCW claims the company spent over $70 million in holiday pay for its approximate 1.5 million workers.
The Factoria Walmart rally was one of 13 past and upcoming demonstrations from UFCW as part of the Making Change at Walmart campaign. The initiative’s goal is to denounce Walmart’s “war on holidays” and demand the retailer restore holiday pay.