As retail workers step up demands for higher wages and more stable working hours, a trade organization has warned that many retailers cannot afford to pay more, intensifying a debate over fair pay in a struggling industry.
Walmart for employing an army of low-wage, part-time workers to staff their stores. As retail sales flounder in an uncertain economy, those activists — and even a growing number of retailers — are linking those sluggish sales to the retailers’ own low wages.
On Thursday, organizers of a group called Our Walmart took to the streets in New York, Washington and Phoenix to draw attention to their campaign to change labor practices in retailing and other low-wage industries like fast-food restaurants. By not paying their workers a living wage, the activists say, such businesses squeeze the very people they hope to sell to.
“I can’t afford anything,” said LaRanda Jackson, 20, who earns $8.75 an hour working on the sales floor at a Walmart in Cincinnati. “Sometimes I can’t afford soap, toothpaste, tissue. Sometimes I have to go without washing my clothes.”
Ms. Jackson was among 14 Walmart employees and 12 others who were arrested and charged with civil disobedience Thursday after staging a protest outside the Manhattan residence of Alice Walton, an heir to the Walmart fortune, demanding that Walmart set a base pay of $15 for all its workers — much like the...