WALMART WORKERS, COMMUNITY ALLIES TO HOLD 1500 PROTESTS ACROSS COUNTRY ON BLACK FRIDAY
Protests in Los Angeles, Miami, Bay Area, Chicago, Seattle, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, Sacramento Mark Largest Mobilization of Working Families in Recent History
Environmental, Religious, Women’s & Immigrants’ Rights Groups Join Workers to Call For An End to Illegal Retaliation, $25,000 a Year, Full-Time Work
(Washington, DC) – Walmart workers and community allies today announced plans leading up to and on Black Friday, saying 1500 protests are scheduled for across the country, in what is set to be one of the largest mobilizations of working families in American history. Workers are calling for an end to illegal retaliation, and for Walmart to publicly commit to improving labor standards, such as providing workers with more full time work and $25,000 a year. As the country’s largest retailer and employer, Walmart makes more than $17 billion in profits, with the wealth of the Walton family totaling over $144.7 billion – equal to that of 42% of Americans.
“Black Friday 2013 will mark a turning point in American history,” said Dorian Warren, associate professor at Columbia University. “Fifteen hundred protests against Walmart is unprecedented. Working families are fighting back like never before – and have the support of America behind them.
Emboldened by news from Walmart CEO Bill Simon that as many as 825,000 workers are paid less than $25,000 a year, workers and supporters are calling for better jobs nationwide. Major protests are planned in more than a dozen metropolitan cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Bay Area, Seattle,Sacramento, Miami, Minneapolis and Washington, DC.
The announcement follows revelations this week that many Walmart workers don’t have enough money to cover Thanksgiving dinner for their families. A photo from a Canton, Ohio store set the internet abuzz Monday, with workers, customers andcommentators pointing to a food drive set up for Walmart’s own employees as proof that the retailer pays its workers poverty wages.
“Walmart’s right that associates do stick together and look out for each other. We have to because Walmart and the Waltons seem to be fine with the financial struggles that we’re all facing,” said Barbara Gertz, a five-year Walmart employee from Colorado. “We’re are all in the same situation, one that Walmart creates by paying us poverty wages that aren’t enough to cover holiday meals. We don’t want handouts; we want an employer that pays us enough to afford Thanksgiving dinner – and dinner every night of the year.”
Workers and community supporters have been inspired by actions across the country in recent weeks. In Los Angeles, workers went on a two-day strike that culminated in the largest-ever act of civil disobedience against Walmart, and last week, workers in Seattle, Chicago, Ohio and Dallas joined them in walking off their jobs.
The strikes, which call for an end to illegal retaliation at Walmart, come as the federal labor board this week issued a decision to prosecute Walmart for widespread violations of its workers’ rights. The decision will provide additional protection for Walmart’s 1.3 million employees when they are speaking out for better jobs. The Board will prosecute Walmart’s illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June.
With the Labor Relations Board moves forward to seek a settlement that could include the reinstatement of fired workers, a group of Walmart employees who were illegally retaliated against are traveling to Bentonville, Arkansas to call on Walmart CEO Bill Simon to reinstate them immediately. Early Friday morning, November 22, the fired workers will visit Home Office to urge Walmart to live up to the anti-retaliation policy it professes to follow.
“I’m traveling to Bentonville with other workers who were wrongfully fired because Walmart needs to hear from us directly: we want our jobs back, and we want you to put theanti-retaliation policy you talk about into practice,” said Jeanna Slate, a fired striker, mother and grandmother from rural Texas who is traveling to Bentonville. “Walmart makes $17 billion dollars in profits while the majority of its workers makeless than $25,000 a year. Walmart can do better.”
Walmart workers have escalated their online organizing and community outreach ahead of Black Friday 2013, allowing customers and community members to join the fight for $25,000 and an end to illegal retaliation. Chicago worker Charmaine Givens-Thomas launched an online petition asking President Obama to meet with Walmart workers, which currently has more than 100,000 signers; individuals can sponsor a Walmart striker online; and a new online portal, www.associatevoices.com, allows associates to step forward and request Black Friday protests at their stores. Just weeks since the launch, the number of cities that have requested a Black Friday rally is well ahead of the number at this point in 2012.
National leaders and community groups representing tens of millions of Americans, from every corner of thecountry, will join workers at protests leading up to and on Black Friday. Members of Congress, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN); women’s groups including the National Organization for Women andFamily Values @ Work; and environmental and consumer protection organizations such as The Sierra Club, the National Consumers League andFood and Water Watch, have all pledged support for the courageous workers, saying their fight is a fight for all Americans.
“I learned about the growing protests online, and after seeing the news that Walmart was asking its own employees to feed one another, I knew I had to speak out,” said Rev. Holly Beaumont, organizing director for Interfaith Worker Justice New Mexico, who plans to join protests around Black Friday. “It’s not right. Anyone who works hard shouldn’t have to rely on food stamps, or charity from their coworkers, just to get by.”
Growing voices in business and the media have denounced Walmart for its unsustainable business model. A Bloomberg columnist recently called the company the true “welfare queen,” noting that Walmart is the largest consumer of taxpayer-supported aid. Following third quarter revenues that fell short of expectations, Forbes added that shoppers, shareholders and the retail giant havereason to worry. And the New York Times argued that Walmart employees deserve both raises and to have the federal government behind them.
As calls for change intensify, academics, business experts and think tanks are offering ways that Walmart can increase workers’ wages without costing taxpayers, customers or the business a dime. A Fortune article pointed toinvestors wanting change – Walmart could easily raise wages by 50% without affecting its stock value. And public policy organization Demos released a report this week finding that Walmart could easily payevery employee $14.89 without raising prices by simply not buying its own stock to further enrich the Walton family.
Walmart’s low-wage model winds up costing us all,” said Amy Traub, Demos senior policy analyst and co-author of A Higher Wage is Possible. “When the biggest employer in the country doesn’t pay its workers enough to spend money in their communities, we don’t get the economic growth that creates more jobs. And when jobs don’t pay enough to support a family, taxpayers end up subsidizing Walmart’s workforce costs through public benefits like Medicaid and nutrition assistance.”
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Dan Hindman is a proud father of two and has worked at the Walmart store in Paramount, California for over four years. On average, he works 10 hours per week and earns $10.50 an hour. His annual income is approximately $5,600.
Last year, Hindman saw his health premiums rise 33% for his son and himself (from $60 to $80/month). This year, with the arrival of his newborn baby daughter, Denali, he cannot afford to include her on his Walmart health plan. Adding his daughter to his plan would cost $110 per week – or more than 50% of his paycheck. Hindman has already had to struggle with past hospital and doctor bills and co-pays totaling $2,500.
“I want nothing more than to be a good provider for my family. However, with what Walmart pays us it’s hard to do that,” said Hindman. “I am not looking for charity all I want is the hours and pay that will allow me to take care of my family. If I were making $25,000 a year things would be different, things would be better.”
Hindman is struggling to make ends meet as Walmart keeps cutting his hours. He has asked management to give him more hours, but instead of giving him more hours, management told him he needed to open up his availability. Although he did as they asked, Walmart still refuses to give him additional hours while the company is steadily hiring new temporary workers.
“I believe in standing up for what I know is right. I know I’m taking a big risk standing up to Walmart because they often retaliate against people who speak up for change, but it’s the right thing to do,” said Hindman. “I want Walmart to pay all of us a fair wage so that we are able to provide. I don’t like feeling like I’m an irresponsible person, because I can’t even afford the basic necessities for my family. That’s why I fight and that’s why we are going to win. We have no other choice.”Read more »
After the Cleveland Plain Dealer released a photo of some food drive bins, meant for Walmart associates to give to Walmart associates, so that they can have food for Thanksgiving, the internet lit up with outraged workers, consumers, and even celebrities–like Ashton Kutcher. And Stephen Colbert did an awesome segment of it on his show last night. You can watch it here
The photo is proof of Walmart’s miserably low-wages. Now, workers are calling for change. Check out the video below.Read more »
Brandon Garrett has always stood up for his teammates. The talented athlete puts others first. Brandon’s hard work on the athletic field gave the young man from Baton Rouge the opportunity to play college football at Pasadena City College in California. But shortly after realizing his dream, Brandon gave it all up to return to Louisiana to care for his mother when she fell ill.
He put football aside to take a job at a Walmart in nearby Baker. But even as a Walmart worker, for Brandon it was still about taking care of his teammates. At Walmart, he saw his coworkers being treated with disrespect, and saw them struggle to survive on their meager wages. He saw how his store was always understaffed and the employees were overworked.
Brandon wanted Walmart to take pride in its workers – to pay fair wages and treat them with respect, so he stood up for his Walmart teammates. Brandon joined the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), and went on strike in June to deliver a message to company executives in Bentonville.
But when Brandon stood up, Walmart struck back. Brandon was illegally fired for participating in the strike. He wasn’t alone. Since Summer, Walmart has fired or disciplined more than 80 workers for going on strike.
Walmart workers take a big risk when they speak out. Despite their legal rights, Walmart illegally fires many of them for standing up and going on strike. Settling these lawsuits can take years. Walmart thinks that when they fire someone, they’re intimidating workers into keeping silent. They’re wrong.
Brandon’s coworkers with OUR Walmart rallied around him. He has been unemployed since June, although he has never stopped fighting for his coworkers. They pooled their resourcers and helped him through a temporary hardship fund. But like many workers that Walmart fired for going on strike, Brandon wants to continue the fight.
Instead of the problem going away for Walmart when they fire a worker, what if that worker could become an organizer? What if instead of being unemployed, they could use all of their work hours talking to their coworkers about the importance of changing Walmart?
That’s the concept behind the newly created Sponsor a Striker fund. Donations will go directly to supporting fired Walmart strikers as they become fulltime organizers, working to help their former co-workers stand up to the world’s largest private employer.Read more »
Leading Up to Black Friday,
WALMART WORKERS RECEIVE OUTPOURING OF LOCAL, NATIONAL SUPPORT
Labor, Environmental, Religious, Women’s & Immigrants’ Rights and Community Organizations Join Growing Number of Protests
BREAKING: Labor Board Announces Decision to Prosecute Walmart for Violating Workers’ Rights
(WASHINGTON) – Leaders of local, state and national groups representing tens of millions of Americans pledged to join Walmart workers demanding change at the country’s largest retailer and employer on Black Friday. Amid growing protests and strikes at stores across the country, national leaders say the day will mark one of the largest mobilizations of working families in U.S. history, surpassing last year when more than 30,000 workers and supporters protested against the mega-retailer.
During the call, OUR Walmart member Tiffany Beroid announced breaking news from the National Labor Relations Board. Today, the Board’s General Counsel is issuing a decision to prosecute Walmart for its widespread violations of its workers’ rights. The decision will provide additional protection for Walmart’s 1.3 million employees when they are speaking out for better jobs at the country’s largest employer. The Board will prosecute Walmart’s illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June, according to the decision.
Individuals and organizations announcing their support for Walmart workers represent millions of Americans from every corner of the country, including members of Congress such as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA); policy experts and academics such as Demos, the National Employment Law Project and the Economic Policy Institute; women’s groups such as the National Organization for Women and Family Values @ Work; and environmental and consumer protection organizations such as The Sierra Club, the National Consumers League and Food and Water Watch.
“The scale of support and nationwide activity being planned for Black Friday is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. Black Friday is becoming a labor day of action for working families,” said Peter Dreier, Distinguished Professor of Politics, and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College and author of The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. “As income inequality climbs to historic levels and families are increasingly pushed to the margins, working families are coming together to demand better. This year, the day after Thanksgiving will be remembered not as the biggest shopping day of the year, but as the day Americans took action to demand the country’s largest employer pay workers livable wages and play a part in improving our economy.”
“The fight for better pay, full time work and an end to illegal retaliation at Walmart isn’t just a workers’ issue,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the country, representing more than 12 million Americans. “It’s a family and women’s issue, an immigrant rights issue, a student issue, an environmental issue and a consumer issue. Above all, it’s an issue of fairness. I’m proud to say that the AFL-CIO has committed the full weight of the labor movement to support these brave, determined Walmart workers who are calling for change for all of us. Black Friday is just the next step in efforts to stand together and demand Walmart makes the right choice. And until they do, the more than 12 millionmembers of the AFL-CIO will stand in lockstep with the Walmart workers alongtheir path to justice.”
The announcement came as a growing number of voices in business and the media denounce Walmart for its unsustainable business model. Last week, a Bloomberg columnist called the company the true “welfare queen,” noting that Walmart is the largest consumer of taxpayer-supported aid. A Fortune article pointed to investors wanting change – Walmart could easily raise wages by 50% without affecting its stock value. Following third quarter revenues that fell short of expectations, Forbes added that shoppers, shareholders and the retail Giant have reason to worry. And the New York Times argued that Walmart employees deserve both raises and to have the federal government behind them.
“Our more than 8 million members stand in solidarity with Walmart workers for a very simple reason: hardworking people deserve to be able to get by,” said Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action. “But as people across the nation learn about Walmart’s poverty wages, dangerous working conditions and illegal retaliation, outrage is growing. Our members will be out in full force on Black Friday.”
“Walmart workers deserve respect, dignity and fair wages,” said Kim Bobo, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice. “This is a moral issue that Walmart can easily afford to address, but they have refused. And as we enter a season of giving, members of every faith will join the thousands of people on Black Friday calling on Walmart to give workers what they deserve: a minimum of $25,000 a year for full-time work and the freedom to speak out without retaliation. It’s time for Walmart to make a change – and we won’t slow down until they do.”
In addition to strikes and protests, Walmart workers are organizing online and conducting outreach in neighborhoods across the country ahead of Black Friday. Chicago worker Charmaine Givens-Thomas recently launched an online petition asking President Obama to meet withworkers who’ve been calling for change at Walmart. Earlier this month, workers unveiled an online portal, www.associatevoices.org, which allows associates to step forward and ask customers and community members to support them by holding Black Friday events at their stores. In less than a week after beginning topromote the site, more than 170 cities have requested a Black Friday rally.
“The sheer size and scope of protests on Black Friday reflects the country’s reaction to Walmart’s treatment of its workers and illegal retaliation against those who speak out,” said Joseph Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. “Workers are standing up as never before, emboldened by a broad coalition of allies and supporters, to send a clear message to Walmart that they won’t be silenced.”
This year’s Black Friday will be even larger than 2012, when 30,000 workers and supporters participated in strikes and protests. Since then, calls for change at the country’s largest retailer and employer have intensified, putting Walmart on the defensive. Citing low wages, manipulative scheduling, understaffing and unsafe working conditions, members of Congress, economic and policy experts, environmentalists, shareholders and financial analysts are pointing to practices that Walmart must end to improve jobs, strengthen the economy — and boost the company’s bottom line.
“Students across the country are joining this unprecedented mobilization because we reject the Walmart model of low-wage,part-time and unstable employment,” said Leewana Thomas of United Students Against Sweatshops. “These jobs used to pay a living wage. Now, they’re all that’s available, and they don’t pay enough to support repaying student loans, much less raising children and providing for a family.”
Emboldened by CEO disclosures that as many as 825,000 Walmart associates are paid less than $25,000 a year, workers across the country have gone on strike in recent weeks, no longer willing to wait to demand an end to illegal retaliation. In Los Angeles, workers went on a two-day strike that culminated in the largest-ever act of civil disobedience against Walmart, and last week, workers in Seattle and Chicago joined them in walking off their jobs.
“With more than $17 billion in profits, Walmart can – and should – pay its workers a minimum wage of $25,000,” said Linda Meric, executive director of 9to5. “Working families need the security of knowing that full-time work won’t relegate them to poverty, and our economy needs families who have that financial security. Black Friday isn’t just the largest shopping day of the year; it’s a chance to show the strength of the movement towards building an economy that values hard work.
Leading up to Black Friday 2012, Walmart and managers escalated their efforts to threaten and discourage workers from going on legally protected strikes. David Tovar, spokesperson for the company, even went so far as to threaten workers on national television, saying “there would be consequences” for workers who did not come in for scheduled shifts on Black Friday. This year, Walmart will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, forcing many employees to work through the holiday night.
“Black Friday’s protests are yet another sign of the courage of these workers, especially in light of Walmart’s record of illegal retaliation and climate of fear they have created,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization. “Their bravery is the reason so many are rallying behind them in one of the largest mobilizations in recent memory. They’re fighting for all of us.”
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Walmart workers scored an important victory yesterday when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that it would issue a complaint finding that Walmart unlawfully retaliated against workers who went out on strike.
In a finding that Walmart violated the law, the NLRB General Counsel, Richard Griffin, cleared the way for a hearing over Walmart’s unlawful retaliation against those who speak out. Following an extended strike in June, Walmart fired or disciplined more than 65 workers. Walmart claimed that the workers had violated attendance policies, despite being notified that the workers were on strike.
“It was always very clear why Walmart fired me. This wasn’t about an attendance policy. It was about making an example out of me that would intimidate my co-workers, and keep them from speaking out,” said Brandon Garrett, a former Walmart employee in Baton Rouge.
“The real victory is that Walmart can no longer intimidate their workers with illegal retaliation,” Garrett said. “Without their threats, our movement is going to grow faster than ever.”
In stores across the country, OUR Walmart members are reporting a new surge of energy following yesterday’s board action.
“So many Associates at my store were scared to speak out after they saw the way that Walmart retaliated against me,” said Gerry Paladan. “But now they see that the government is willing to act against Walmart when it unlawfully retaliates against those of us who speak out. This just makes us stronger.”
This complaint is fueling momentum for what promises to be the biggest Walmart action in history on Black Friday. Already, workers have risked their livelihoods by protesting, striking, and engaging in civil disobedience to stand up for themselves, their families and all Walmart workers. Now all Walmart workers can openly exercise their freedoms of speech, assembly and association knowing that the government will hold Walmart accountable for its unlawful retaliation.
You can support the workers by visiting BlackFridayProtests.org.Read more »
Today (November 18th), for the first time ever, Walmart workers in the state of Ohio went on strike to protest Walmart’s retaliation against those who speak out for change. They were joined by community supporters, who say they were motivated to join protests given the extremely low pay Walmart workers receive and the burden that creates on taxpayers.
By coming together and taking a stand for the first time in Ohio, these workers join other Walmart workers who are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) in risking their livelihoods to speak out for what is right. They are working to change Walmart, not just for themselves and Walmart’s 1.3 million workers, but to help improve the American economy.
“OUR Walmart is a support network of other Associates going through the exact same situation as me. Knowing that they have the support of workers across the country and our community, workers in Ohio are empowered to take a stand and join the rest of the nation to call on Walmart to make these changes to improve our lives and our communities,” said Jamaad Reed, a Walmart worker in Ohio at Walmart store #4609.
“The goal of these actions isn’t to shut down the store. We just want Walmart to respect our right to speak out. When Associates stand up for better working conditions, hours and pay, Walmart intimidates and punishes us. This has to stop,” Reed continued.
The action in Ohio is the latest in the series of OUR Walmart strikes across the country. Tens of thousands of people came out on Black Friday last year and the movement only continues to grow with OUR Walmart members in 700 stores, across 46 states. This momentum promises to deliver a Black Friday (the biggest shopping day of the year) that Walmart will remember.
You can support strikers like those in Ohio by visiting BlackFridayProtests.org and taking action there.Read more »
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 18, 2013
FEDERAL LABOR BOARD: Walmart Violated Workers’ Rights Nationwide
National Labor Relations Board Decides to Prosecute Nationwide Violations at Country’s Largest Employer
Workers, Supporters Vow to Increase their Calls for Walmart to End Illegal Retaliation, Create Better Jobs
WASHINGTON — The National Labor Relations Board General Counsel is issuing a decision today to prosecute Walmart for its widespread violations of its workers’ rights. The decision will provide additional protection for Walmart’s 1.3 million employees when they are speaking out for better jobs at the country’s largest employer.
The Board will prosecute Walmart’s illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June, according to the decision.
The decision addresses threats by managers and the company’s national spokesperson for discouraging workers from striking and for taking illegal disciplinary actions against workers who were on legally protected strikes. Workers could be awarded back pay, reinstatement and the reversal of disciplinary actions through the decision; and Walmart could be required to inform and educate all employees of their legally protected rights.
“The Board’s decision confirms what Walmart workers have long known: the company is illegally trying to silence employees who speak out for better jobs,” said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs With Justice and American Rights at Work. “Americans believe that we have the responsibility – and the right – to speak out against corporate abuses of workers, and this proves we’re finally being heard, and making kinks in Walmart’s armor. Customers, clergy and community members from across the country are standing with Walmart workers bravely calling for better jobs and a stronger economy for all of us.”
Today’s decision addresses charges filed one year ago in advance of Black Friday 2012, when Walmart managers escalated their efforts to threaten and discourage workers from going on legally protected strikes. David Tovar, spokesperson for the company, even went so far as to threaten workers on national television, saying “there would be consequences” for workers who did not come in for scheduled shifts on Black Friday.
Additionally, the decision covers the illegal firings and disciplinary actions that occurred after 100 striking Walmart workers took their concerns to the company’s June shareholder meeting in Bentonville. Support from investors, Walmart workers and the general public continued to grow after tens of thousands of shareholders heard from OUR Walmart members at the company’s annual shareholder meeting.
When these workers returned to work, Walmart systematically fired and disciplined them despite their legally recognized, protected absences. This included disciplinary action against at least 43 workers and the firing of at least another 23 worker-leaders.
“Working at the largest employer in the country should mean making a decent living. Those days are long gone,” said Tiffany Beroid, a Walmart worker from Laurel, MD. “Walmart continues to show that it’s afraid to have real conversations about creating better jobs, but would rather scare us into silence. But change at Walmart is too important to our economy and for our families for us to stop speaking out.”
Prior to the extended strike in June, American Rights at Work/Jobs with Justice released a white paper documenting Walmart’s extensive and systematic efforts to silence associates. At that time, there were more than 150 incidents in stores across the country, with few signs that Walmart would soon stop targeting those who speak out and act collectively.
In other labor charges against Walmart, workers have been winning. In California alone, the National Labor Relations Board recently decided to prosecute Walmart for 11 violations of federal labor law from some threats made around Black Friday last year.
In Kentucky, one settlement was reached between Walmart and Aaron Lawson in which Walmart fired Lawson after he distributed flyers and spoke out against the company’s attempts to silence those who called for better wages and consistent hours. As part of the settlement, Walmart agreed to rehire Lawson and provide full back wages for the time that he was out of work.
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Dorothy lives in Placerville, California, and has worked at Walmart for 10 years. Currently she is on medical leave. Prior to going on medical leave five months ago, she was earning $12.29 dollars an hour. In 2012, her annual income was about $16,000.
In the decade that she has worked at Walmart, Halvorson has seen many changes. At she first she loved it, but that all changed when her husband was diagnosed with cancer.
At the same time, Halvorson had to have a hip replacement surgery, but she didn’t want to take time off because she didn’t want to leave Walmart short-handed. It wasn’t until her husband became gravely ill, and eventually passed away from cancer, that she decided to take a leave of absence. When Halvorson eventually came back to work, Walmart dramatically cut her hours. She was given part-time status and management moved her into a different department. She also lost all the vacation and a sick leave that she accrued over 7 years.
Last year, Walmart started hiring new part-time workers, while firing full-timers who have worked at the company for years. Halvorson believes Walmart targets and fires workers who have worked at the store for a long time and who are enrolled in Walmart’s benefit programs.
“I don’t agree with the way we are treated by management. Walmart needs to change. We need consistent schedules and for those of us who want is we need full time hours,” said Halvorson. “I know Walmart can provide us with reasonable work schedules, an end to illegal retaliation and pay us $25,000 a year. And I am not going to stop fighting until they do.”Read more »