Walmart Employees Are Planning a Walkout to Protest Gun Sales
If all goes to plan, Walmart employees could be staging a walkout and moment of silence next Monday to protest the store's continued sale of firearms and ammunition. The Washington Post reports that a Change.org petition has been circulated by employees to urge executives to pull guns off of store shelves. By Wednesday afternoon, the petition had earned more than 28,000 signatures. In addition to the petition, organizers in San Bruno, Calif. and Portland, Ore., where two Walmart e-commerce offices are located, are urging employees to walk out on Monday at 3 p.m. local time if their requests fall on deaf ears and the company continues to donate to "politicians who receive funding from the National Rifle Association."
These actions come in the wake of a shooting at a Walmart location in El Paso, Texas, and Southaven, Miss., which were just a few days apart. CNN notes that two employees were killed in the Mississippi incident and 22 were killed in El Paso.
"There's an intense irony that Walmart continues to sell guns despite the constant shootings in its stores," Kate Kesner, a Walmart e-commerce employee who helped to organize the protest, said.
A second employee echoed her concerns. "Of all the gun tragedies, this hit the closest to home for a lot of us," Thomas Marshall said. "I felt like I had to do something or else I would really be complicit in a company that was continuing to sell firearms. "Walmart is a company that has always placed its associates and customers first, and we have recently made great strides toward fostering a safe, inclusive, and progressive community."
He went on to explain that Walmart had already taken some steps to regulate gun sales, but that it wasn't enough. In 2015, Walmart stopped selling assault-style rifles and currently limits handgun sales to locations in Alaska. The store also stopped selling guns to people under 21 after the Parkland, Fla., shooting last year.
"Last year, Walmart raised the minimum age to buy a firearm or ammunition from 18 to 21 and removed products resembling assault-style rifles from its inventory. Walmart is still, however, the single largest retailer of firearms in the United States," Marshall said. "We have made great strides already, but now we must organize to shape this company into a place we can all be proud of. As associates, we have the power, ability, and opportunity to change this company for the better."
The company didn't take kindly to his initiative. The Post notes that after he sent an email that reached nearly 20,000 associates, the company temporarily suspended emails and Slack accounts.
Spokesperson Randy Hargrove said that the superstore is encouraging workers to showcase their opinions in other ways, the Post writes, adding that many employees are using other tactics to stand by their beliefs.
"There are more effective channels, such as email or leadership conversations," he said. "The vast majority of our associates who want to share their views are taking advantage of those options."
Hargrove stressed that the company had not enforced any sort of disciplinary action and declined to comment on whether or not employees would be penalized for being a part of the planned walkout.
Marshall plans to send the petition to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and hopes that he will follow the example set by other big-box retailers, such as Dick's Sporting Goods, which stopped selling "assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines" after the Parkland shooting.