These Walmart Workers Are Taking Extreme Measures to Expose Corporate Greed

November 25th 2015

As Walmart workers gear up for protests at stores across the country on Black Friday, many will continue fasting for higher wages to feed themselves and their families.

Some workers have fasted for as many as 15 days, and will stop after Thanksgiving, to call attention to the retail giant's low wages, and to the fact that workers sometimes cannot afford to put food on the table—especially around the holidays.

related: REI Just Made A Bold Move Against Black Friday

Denise Barlage, a former Walmart employee in California, who was laid off earlier this year, has been fasting for ten days. She says that she hopes hers and others' actions will spur public awareness and grab the attention of employers.

"This is my third fast for the year," Barlage told ATTN: on Tuesday. "Im fasting to cause awareness so that the Waltons can pay a living wage to all working associates, so they can at least have meals on the tables for their families and themselves, especially around the Thanksgiving time."

The Waltons—the family that owns Walmart—are frequently cited as the most wealthy in the country. According to Forbes, their most recent net worth was $149 billion.

Barlage, who has been on a diet of water and broth (and recently had to purchase a new belt to keep her pants from falling down), said that she hoped demonstrations would bring shoppers' attention to the amount of tax money that goes towards public assistance programs many Walmart workers—including the store's full-time staff, known as the "working poor"—are forced to use. One 2013 congressional report found that taxpayers shell out between $900,000 and $1.75 million per store for assistance programs for workers.

also: The 3 Biggest Myths About Raising the Minimum Wage

More than 1,000 people, including 100 Walmart workers, have been fasting in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. Other union-backed demonstrators put down their picket signs and launched a food donation campaign to collect food for needy Walmart employees. "This holiday season, we have set the goal of feeding 100,000 Walmart workers and families," the organization Making Change at Walmart said in a release. "It is unconscionable that people working for one of the richest companies in this country should have to starve."

Though some Walmart stores have perhaps shortsightedly acknowledged their employees' inability to afford food—on Oklahoma store in 2013 launched a food drive for its own employees—the company chalked the strikes up to a media stunt. "False attacks and media stunts from the unions have become an annual tradition this time of year," Brian Nick, a company spokesperson, told the Hill earlier this month.

Though the company announced wage increases in April, even full-time workers (34 hours per week) will only hover between the federal poverty levels for individuals ($11,770 per year) and families ($24,250), Mother Jones reported. Barlage said that small changes wouldn't likely fix deeper problems she observed over her nine years with the company.

related: I Am A Walmart Worker. Here is Why I Am Striking Today

"I've seen many associates down the line that really do not fare well with what's going on," she said. "I remember in the past many associates were fine having to work Thanksgiving day and Black Friday because they didn't have a turkey dinner, they weren't going to have anything because of that status."

Barlage said that although Walmart would sometimes bring in food for its employees, the gesture was more or less an empty one. "A majority of the time, that was food coming from Walmart just to keep them going," she said. "It wasn't about giving them a good enough salary where the associate could've bought the food themselves, take it home, and have someone cook it."

Here's a video released Wednesday of Walmart workers striking outside the New York City penthouse of Alice Walton.

Hungry for Justice from DelaVisions Inc. on Vimeo.

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