Anyone heading down Drum Hill Road is used to occasional protestors for political causes, and on Saturday morning those drivers will see an issue that hits close to home. So close to home, it’s only a few hundred feet away from where they’ll be standing.
Massachusetts Jobs With Justice has announced that it expects hundred of activists to rally along the sidewalks of Drum Hill Road near Chelmsford’s Walmart location to protest mistreatment of Chelmsford Walmart employee David Coulombe.
The effort in response to a protest in June where assorted groups of fast food and retail workers across the U.S. , including Coulombe, walked off the job to demand a living wage.
While some other Walmart employees who engaged in the protest were terminated, Coulombe did not lose his job, although he was verbally disciplined by his manager.
Jobs With Justice executive director Russ Davis says the Saturday protest is designed to demand that Walmart rescind the warning against Coulombe as well as challenge what he sees as false arguments by larger employers such as Walmart, such as that raising wages would cost jobs for some employees.
“I think the real issue is quite frankly people can say whatever they want, but people can’t live on minimum wage or just above minimum wage, and there are people at Chelmsford’s Walmart making just over $8 an hour. Literally I think people have reached the point where they think ‘I don’t care what you say, I can’t live on what I’m making now,” says Davis. “And let’s be honest, Walmart has plenty of money, the Walton family has more money than the bottom thirty percent of the U.S. population put together.”
Walmart officials claim the protests by Jobs for Justice consist mainly of union members and activists that do not work at Walmart, employees from competing companies and paid participants, stating that the group also overinflates the turnout figures of its protests.
With Coulombe’s case, Walmart spokesperson Dan Fogleman said the discipline had nothing to do with political beliefs, but rather a violation of attendance policies, stating Coulombe did not inform his managers prior to walking off the job.
“If someone doesn’t show up to work, it’s really disrespectful to managers and fellow employees,” said Fogleman. “Many employees who engaged in similar actions did not receive any discipline because they disclosed their plans in advance so managers could make accommodations.”
Fogleman also challenged claims from the group regarding the payment of Walmart employees, stating that the average U.S. Walmart employee makes $12.83 an hour, with 85,000 employees making up to $18 an hour.
Coulombe could not be reached for comment, the protest is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.