Her ex-boss called the police once she’d walked out of the store!
According to The Huffington Post, 59-year-old Vanessa Farreira went on strike as the rest of her co-workers just stood there and stared.
Farreira informed her manager publicly Wednesday morning that she was going on strike…Within a half hour, Farreira would be told by police outside that she was trespassing and ordered to leave.
She’s worked in the store’s cake department for eight years, and she earns $11.90 an hour, she said.
“I love to decorate cakes,” Farreira said Wednesday. “That’s my priority — to do my cakes the best I can.”
As much as she loves her job, there’s plenty Farreira doesn’t like about her employer. According to Farreira, Walmart’s wages are too low for workers to survive on, and the company keeps too many of its employees on part-time status, leaving them to rely on government assistance to get by.
“They pay low wages, then the taxpayers pick up the tab for food stamps and Medicaid,” Farreira said. “They need to take care of their people. They need to be responsible to their workers.”
A few months ago, Farreira heard about the union-backed group OUR Walmart, which is orchestrating an as-yet-unknown number of strikes at Walmart stores throughout the country this week, throwing the world’s largest retailer into damage control just ahead of Black Friday. Farreira said she liked the idea of a group advocating for workers, so she joined.
Farreira said she tried to recruit members, but it wasn’t easy.
“They’re so scared,” Farreira said of her co-workers. “I couldn’t get anybody to join. They said, ‘You can’t fight Walmart.’”
Whatever strikes hit Walmart stores this Friday, it’s likely only a small, perhaps miniscule fraction of the retailer’s 1.4-million member U.S. workforce will take part. And though news footage may show boisterous gatherings by activists outside stores, the more daring acts of protests will have been undertaken by individual workers like Farreira who walk out when there are no TV cameras around. In recent days, it became clear that if she went on strike she would probably do so alone.
But Farreira said she felt compelled to walk out after an incident a few days ago. In a letter she’s filing with the National Labor Relations Board, Farreira accuses management of retaliating against her because of legally protected organizing in the workplace.
Farreira said that on Saturday she received her first-ever “coaching” — a formal bit of Walmart disciplining that could help lead to dismissal down the road — after a customer complained about a problem with a cake order. Despite occasional problems with cakes in the past, Farreira said it was the only coaching she’s been given in eight years.
She said she believes she was disciplined because she was a known member of OUR Walmart who might demonstrate on Black Friday. She said in her letter that she would withdraw her complaint if the coaching were removed from her file.
“I’ve worked at Walmart and never had a writeup, no warning, no nothing,” Farreira said. “I’ve been in the baking industry in retail operations for 20 years and never [been] disciplined.”
On Wednesday morning, Farreira said she and other employees were called to a meeting where the manager warned there might be distractions led by OUR Walmart surrounding the holiday. According to her own version, Farreira told her co-workers it was employees’ right to go on strike, and then things got “pretty hot.” A few workers said Farreira didn’t speak for them. Farreira said she was speaking for the ones who were afraid to say anything at all. To cool everybody off, Farreira said the manager tried to lead everybody in a “Walmart cheer.”
“Why don’t you just quit?” Farreira said one co-worker told her.
“I said I’ve got eight years invested in this place — I’m going to make it better,” Farreira said.
After the meeting, Farreira said her manager came to the bakery with store security and asked her if she planned on disrupting the store on Black Friday or Thanksgiving. The manager offered an “open-door” discussion to talk about her grievances, which Farreira declined. Farreira gave her a letter informing her of her charge being filed with the labor board and then clocked out.
By then, several family members had shown up to support Farreira, including her daughter, Tanya Russ, who said the scene was “awkward and tense.”
“Everybody was looking, but nobody was saying anything,” Russ said. “The other workers, they were looking but everybody got really quiet. Then I just said, ‘Walk out.’ So we walked out.”
Russ noted that her mother is in a better position than many workers, since her husband has a good job and they’re less dependent on her wages.
“She didn’t have to do this,” Russ said. “She’s not in a position [many] workers are where they live off the government and don’t have a car and don’t know how the bills will get paid. She’s standing up for them and for her future co-workers.”
The police soon arrived, took down their information and ordered them to leave because they were trespassing (the police order comes at the end of the video below). According to Sgt. Denise Roberts of the St. Cloud Police Department, the police issued the trespassing warnings at Walmart’s request. They were not given summonses because no civil or criminal charges will be filed. In all, more than 20 such warnings were given to people outside.
“We did it on behalf of Walmart,” Roberts said. “Walmart just has a policy with this Black Friday that they don’t want anybody doing any demonstrations inside the store or outside.”
Farreira has both Thanksgiving and Black Friday off, with her next shift set for Saturday. She’ll be spending the holiday at her daughter’s house with her family. She said she has much to be thankful for.
“I’m blessed compared to other workers at Walmart,” she said.
Do you think the strike will have a big effect on Walmart stores this coming weekend??