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Los Angeles Union Demands Walmart Raise Its Wages Way Ahead Of Law

The Los Angeles City Council recently passed the measure to raise minimum wage to $15 by 2020, and still one union is targeting local Walmarts with demands to increase its wages immediately.

With considerable pressure from organized labor, the Los Angeles City Council voted 14 to 1 to raise the city’s minimum wage. Even with the gradual change, some economists have warned the measure will still have a considerable and likely negative impact on local businesses. Nevertheless, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, is demanding city-based Walmarts raise their wages much sooner.

“Here in Los Angeles, two dozen Walmart workers will begin a 24-hour fast today to highlight the hunger many Walmart associates and their families endure due to the company’s low wages and insufficient hours,” a press release from the union stated.

The Los Angeles based protest is just a small part of a nationwide rally put on by the UFCW against the retailer. The union says it is calling for CEO Doug McMillon and the Walton family to stop retaliating against outspoken workers and to publicly commit to paying a living wage. The store did commit to raising its wages earlier this year, but the union complained it wasn’t enough.

The union also claims the recent closure of some stores for reported plumbing issues is a clear sign Walmart retaliates against some workers for demanding higher pay and better working conditions.

“Meanwhile, the company escalated its retaliatory actions against associates to a new level last month when it abruptly closed five stores and laid off more than 2,000 workers, citing ‘plumbing issues.’” The union declared. “Walmart has failed to offer any conclusive evidence of a plumbing emergency that would require the immediate closing of five stores.”

The mass layoffs prompted the union to file a complaint on behalf of the labor group “Our Walmart.”

“We don’t believe there is any basis for an injunction,” Walmart told The Daily Caller News Foundation, at the time, in a prepared statement.

“As we have said all along, these stores were closed temporarily so we could fix the ongoing plumbing issues and it would be unfortunate if this outside group attempts to slow this process down for our associates and customers,” the statement continued. “Each of these five locations had more than 100 plumbing problems reported over the last two years, the most out of our more than 5,000 stores in the U.S.”

Walmart also offered those workers that got laid off access to 60 days of severance pay and options to help get their jobs back once the stores reopen at the same or better pay.

Even with the passage of a new city based minimum wage and demands that Walmart raise its wages sooner, other unions like the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, another affiliate of the AFL-CIO, is asking for unionized companies and workers to be exempt from the law.

Such an exemption would give unionized labor a distinct advantage over unaffiliated workers, effectively subsidizing unions within LA city limits.

Though the measure did not include any exemptions for organized labor, it is not at all unusual for unions to opt out of laws which raise the minimum wage. According to the report, “Labor’s Minimum Wage Exemption,” which was released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in December, many labor unions are exempt from the various local minimum wage laws they support.

“Not all minimum wage increases come in the same form,” the report notes. “Some local ordinances in particular include an exemption for employers that enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a union.”

The report explains that these sort of “escape clauses” are often designed to encourage unionization because they make membership a low-cost alternative for employers. This, explains the report, raises questions about who these minimum wage laws are actually meant to help.

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