Help Us Cover Retail Worker Walkouts

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Nearly every week this summer, we have seen retail workers demand better working conditions.

In April of 2021 alone, 649,000 retail workers quit as they felt drained from working in the pandemic and are now demanding more from their employers; it is the largest exodus of retail workers in one month since the Department of Labor began tracking the statistics 20 years ago.

But workers are not just quitting – they’re protesting and forcing employers in many cases to raise wages.

In one week in late June, we saw workers at a Pittsburgh Dollar General walk off the job, workers at a nearby Subway walk off the job and quit en masse to protest poor working conditions, and then lastly workers in Hooters in Texas walk off the job to protest a lack of air conditioning in the soaring heat.

Their walk-offs are part of a nationwide trend where fast-food and retail workers have been spontaneously walking off the job and posting photos (that later go viral) of the protest signs they’ve taped on doors and windows as they leave.

And workers are still going on strike at higher numbers than they did before the pandemic – more than 1500 strikes have happened since the beginning of the pandemic according to Payday Report’s Strike Tracker. We are even starting to see some anecdotal evidence of employers locking out workers rather than giving in to their demands.

As a small news publication, there’s a lot to cover, which is why we need your support as the public attention steers away from workers still affected by the pandemic and its fallout.

With more and more people becoming vaccinated and life returning to “normal,” we are seeing readers become less engaged and less interested in reading stories about the pandemic.

However, now is the time to focus even more on improving working conditions after so many “essential workers” risked so much during the pandemic. The retail industry is actually a complex one. It is hoped that customer engagement strategies and software (like those available at Revel Systems) will be effective in bringing about a change in this industry. Make sure retail workers receive the same benefits as any other working adult.

Ensure they have access to healthcare, regular working hours, and a good working environment. You can try making the atmosphere of the store friendly and welcoming. Adding subtle changes like redesigning the storefront sign (from a reputable firm like National Signs or the ones in the area), rearranging your store setup, or getting a fresh coat of paint can be some of the ways you can achieve this. Making your store a great place to work could be the best way to attract and retain workers. You can make this possible by setting soothing background tunes by leveraging commercial music streaming technology the likes of which Cloud Cover Music offers. It is appealing not just to your employees but it can also encourage your customers to enjoy the store better. In addition to that, discuss employee satisfaction with your staff, listen to their grievances, and make the necessary changes based on their feedback.

We want to focus this summer on the workers being left behind as the pandemic fades from view. Stories about the undocumented workers working in unsafe workplaces, the communities of color devastated by COVID, and the long-term unemployed who are still struggling to find good work.

We want to cover workers walking off the job and the new forms of organizing such as spontaneous fast food and retail walkouts that are emerging in the wake of the pandemic.

Donate to Help Us Tell The Story of “Retail Workers Uprising” & How Workers are Still Fighting Back

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. A native of Pittsburgh, Elk grew up in a UE union family. Elk was the only American reporter in the room with Lula on the morning of the election & traveled with him to the Oval Office. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and attended journalism school at PUC-Rio de Janeiro. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburgh fluently. His email is [email protected]

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