The new documentary “Dear Walmart,” available Tuesday (November 19) via streaming services, tells the intimate stories of four Walmart workers who helped build a national grassroots movement that advocates for better wages, respect and updated family workplace policies.
An emailed statement notes that “Walmart is the largest employer of African Americans, women and Latinx workers in the United States.” But organizers say they are routinely mistreated. “Instead of helping people come out of poverty, they perpetuate it with the wages that they pay,” United for Respect leader Evelin Cruz, who died in 2016, says in the film. Cruz led the 2012 Pico Rivera strike via a strong Latinx coalition that inspired other Walmart employees around the nation to protest poor working conditions.
Anthony Goytia, a Walmart worker who joined the protests, says in the film: “I did different things to make ends meet. I collect a lot of recyclables. A couple months ago we found ourselves selling breast milk.” Goytia continued, “That’s ridiculous. I work for this company that is the largest retailer in the world, and they want to get mad at me because I’m asking for more money. I can’t even raise my family.” And Bene’t Holmes tells of having a miscarriage at a store and then being reprimanded for taking leave.
As a result of the activists’ actions, Walmart instituted paid family leave for 500,000 workers and improved its family leave policy. Entry-level pay was raised from $9 and hour to $11. And in 2019, United for Respect helped 33,000 laid off Toys R Us employees win a $20 million hardship fund after the company folded without offering severance.
*Note: Updated to reflect that Cruz died in 2016 and the current name of United for Respect.