As they set out on their cross-country journey they were blessed by a bishop, hailed by a mayor, cheered in union halls.
They call the bus trips the "Ride for Respect." It's part of the biggest and longest strike by Wal-Mart workers who are fed up with poverty wages and intimidation. At least 100 Wal-Mart workers walked off the job in Massachusetts, Miami and California on Tuesday, and more are expected to join. They are riding on buses through the South, much as the freedom riders did in 1961. They will stop in 30 cities on the way to their protest at Wal-Mart's shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Ark., on June 7.
They'll be greeted by supporters in the towns and cities where they stop. Events are being planned in more than 40 Wal-Mart stores, union halls and churches throughout the country.
Earlier this week, two Wal-Mart workers in Massachusetts held a news conference before driving to Washington, where they'd board the bus to Bentonville. Aubretia told the press that employees were tired of depending on government subsidies for health care, food, heat and electricity because of Wal-Mart's low wages.
What we want to do is stand up and live better. we are the employees of Wal-Mart except they keep pushing us down and pushing us down.In Washington, D.C., UFCW tells us,
Labor and community groups gathered in support in D.C. at Florida Ave. Baptist Church for a pep rally and breakfast to send off Maryland and Massachusetts Walmart associates who are also members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). After an opening prayer by Reverend Dr. Edwin Jones from Living Faith Baptist Church, the all women social justice a cappella group, Song Rise, gave an inspirational performance by serenading the attendees with “aint gonna let no Walmart, turn me around” and “aint gonna let injustice, turn me around.”In El Monte, Calif., Mayor Andre Quintero spoke about respect to a gathering of striking Wal-Mart workers and their supporters. In Pico Rivera, Calif., clergy joined a picket line in front of a store and Bishop Mendez blessed the bus. In Irvine, Calif., janitors and Wal-Mart strikers represented with a large drum and signs demanding respect outside of a store.
In Atlanta, Wal-Mart strikers kicked off their Ride for Respect with a community breakfast at IBEW Local 613's hall. They got a sendoff from the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center, as community leaders joined them to protest the company's refusal to change.
And in Seattle, a dozen strikers posed for a photo in front of their bus before heading south.
Rallies to support the Wal-Mart strikers are being held all across the country. To find one near you, click here. To donate to the strike fund, click here. To follow them on twitter, use the #WalmartStrikers hashtag.