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Community rallies for workers rights and awareness for worker injustices

| Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Around 60 students, faculty and South Bend community leaders gathered at Fieldhouse Mall yesterday for the “Trump and Walmart Make America Worse” rally to garner awareness for education and worker injustices at Walmart. Raising signs that displayed slogans such as “Workers rights are humans rights” and “Stand up for a better America,” the group stood in solidarity as people from the Notre Dame faculty, students and South Bend community members spoke about the issues.Displaying web 20170918, 20170918, fieldhouse mall, Rosie LoVoi, Walmart rally-2.jpg

This is the latest stop of the Making Change at Walmart (MCAW) movement’s tour of 25 colleges around the country. Anahi Tapia, the organizer for the Midwest region, said the organization is touring colleges with their message because they believe that college-aged students can make a difference.

“We are trying to speak about Trump and Walmart’s shared agenda and shared values and how they’re destroying public education and jobs,” Tapia said.

A student speaks at Monday’s “Making Change at Walmart” rally on Monday at Fieldhouse Mall.Rosie LoVoi | The Observer

A student speaks at Monday’s “Making Change at Walmart” rally on Monday at Fieldhouse Mall.

The Human Rights Club, College Democrats and ND Students for Worker Justice collaborated with MCAW to host the event.

Though their missions are different, Sofia Carozza, vice president of ND Students for Worker Justice, said that her organization was happy to help organize the event.

“We are focused on getting our voice out on getting people to take action on the principles that they believe in,” Carozza said. “Whether it’s because of their Catholic faith or a different faith, but to really emphasize how these principles have an impact on your daily life and there are concrete steps that you as a student, as a consumer, can take to actually make a difference. It’s a great way to get our voice out by collaborating with them.”

Throughout the event, the speakers each emphasized the importance of standing up against the way Walmart treats its workers through their own experiences.

“Walmart is the largest retailer in the world, the largest employer in the U.S. and the most powerful private entity in terms of shaping our economy and politics today,” professor Daniel Graff, director of the Higgins Labor Program and speaker at the rally, said. “Not just in the U.S., but in China and all points in between.”

Graff said that along with low prices come low wages for staff, minimal healthcare and the inability of workers to unionize. People should come together and stand up against injustices such as this, Graff said, citing Catholic Social Teaching.

Professor Paul Mishler, a professor at Indiana University South Bend, said Walmart is setting the standard for the American business model by pushing workers harder and paying them lower wages.

Mishler said through its actions Walmart is a part of Trump’s political plan.

“Trump represents the personification of what Walmart represents as an institution,” he said. “All of the horror, all of the grotesqueness and the racism and the sexism, all of the commitment to enriching the wealthy at the expense of everyone else is part of the business plan of Walmart.”

Yotisj Yoshi, a possible 2018 congressional candidate spoke from his perspective as a local business owner, stating that he is able to find both ways to have a competitive business as well as pay his employees a living wage and health insurance. He said that Walmart’s way of treating workers is “not the American way.”

“Walmart is destroying lots and lots of small businesses just like Trump, who is destroying America by encouraging hatred towards minorities and women,” Yoshi said.

Kel Beatty, president of the College Democrats, used the platform to call listeners to action. He said there are many corporations like Walmart who mistreat their workers and urged students to look off campus for opportunities to get involved.

“As we all take part in these larger fights for racial justice, for economic justice, I think it’s important to remember the centrality that the fight for labor rights has for all of these,” Beatty said.

Dominic Gardetto, president of ND Students for Worker Justice, agreed, and said the everyday actions that students can take to make a difference.

“As consumers, we can practice conscious consumerism by purchasing products from companies that have ethical labor practices,” Gardetto said. “As members of a community we can foster respect for workers on our campus and in our dorms and as individuals it means finding a way to stand up for workers in whatever career you choose … you can always find a way to use your calling to ensure the dignity of your fellow humans. At the end of the day it is our duty to act.”

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