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Workers' Stories: Rosetta Brown

Monday, August 16, 2010

Door Greeter, Sam's Club (Division of Wal-Mart)

Cicero, Illinois

Campaign: Wake Up Wal-Mart

After working eight years at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, Rosetta Brown is still making less than $12 an hour. While she couldn't even get by on that pay if she was working full-time, recently Rosetta has only been able to put in 5.5 hours a day due to an injury she suffered on the job.

It happened back in 1999. She developed a herniated disk in her neck while using equipment to stock merchandise. The injury occurred late at night. She knew she needed to go to a hospital right away, but as is too often the case at Wal-Mart company stores she was locked in and her manager would not let her leave. It took two hours of pleading and then another manager finally let her go to the hospital.

Most people would be discouraged and depressed from these trials and tribulations, but that's not Rosetta's way. She's a true fighter -- and a leader of her co-workers.

Rosetta describes a culture of fear and intimidation at Sam's Club. "I see everything that goes on every day," she says. "People don't get their breaks if there is no one to cover for them, which is much of the time. People get fired if they speak up for themselves. The company asks employees to 'donate' some of their hours -- meaning they are asked to cut back on the number of hours they work when it is less busy. Some people are only getting 10 hours a week. These are people who want to work full-time."

While Rosetta's injury allows her to sit down on the job, she spends the day standing up for her co-workers. That's because she's something of a celebrity, making it difficult for Wal-Mart to fire her. That's not the fate of others. As Rosetta notes, "Once you start complaining about the working conditions, about the poor health coverage or no health coverage or about the unfair firings, they find a way to get you out of there."

Rosetta's staying. She's hoping that her co-workers do too, and that they soon have the tools to defend themselves that come by uniting together.

Six years ago workers at First Student tried to unite into a union, but their effort failed when some of them were taken to dinner and smooth-talked about how things would change. "Well, nothing has changed," said Melanie, "except the company's more sophisticated efforts to block the workers' efforts to secure justice." From an anti-union DVD, to propaganda stuffed in paychecks to outright lies - the company's favorite misleading claim is that the union will raise workers dues whenever it wants - First Student is applying the brakes. But this time workers are seeing a green light ahead.


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