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Category: Economy, Health

Marissa Mayer—Out of Touch with Women Workers?

| March 20, 2013

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Photo: OURWalmart/Organization United for Respect at Walmart (http://forrespect.org/).

The author, a mom and a Walmart employee, wonders if Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, who serves on the Walmart board, can advocate for her.

Three months after joining the Walmart Board of Directors in April 2012 and on the day she was named Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer announced that she was expecting her first child. I was proud that a woman had finally shattered what had for so long been an unbreakable glass ceiling. More importantly, I was heartened to think that I would finally have an advocate on Walmart’s board that would fight for workers like me who have children to provide for.

But when Marissa Mayer decided that telecommuting would no longer be an option for Yahoo employees, including Yahoo’s working moms, suddenly I wasn’t so sure that she would be my advocate.

I have worked at a Walmart store in Placerville, California, for eight years. When I got a job at the largest employer in the country, I thought that I had found a job that would let me create some financial stability for my family, but despite my hard work, every day continues to be a struggle.  After eight years, I’m making $12.05 an hour, but what’s worse is that I can’t get scheduled for enough hours to make ends meet.  Every week, I never know what my paycheck will be – it makes any kind of budgeting and saving nearly impossible.

This year, I had to drop my healthcare coverage when the premium went up – for the third year in a row. Of course, I want to be able to get to the doctor and make sure my daughter does too, but I’m also trying to put some money aside so that she can go to college next year.  I am so hopeful that her future will be better than mine, but I’m also afraid about how I’ll help her get there without the savings that she’ll need to cover tuition. 

I still believe that Marissa Mayer has an opportunity to change things at Walmart. I still believe that she understands what we working mothers have to go through, the difficult choices we have to make, the struggle to earn enough money to raise a family.
 
So far, Mayer has been silent on addressing workplace issues at Walmart, where hourly workers like me earn on average $8.81 an hour and all too often can’t get full-time work. But she is new to the Walmart Board of Directors; maybe she just needs to hear the voices of mothers like me speaking out.

The problem is, it’s hard for us to speak out right now. When we do, we’re threatened. I’ve seen some of my co-workers retaliated against for asking management for fairer wages, regular hours, and access to affordable healthcare.

But this is a stand I’m willing to take. Marissa Mayer, Walmart workers—not just working Walmart moms, but all Walmart workers—need you to be a leader.

Too many of us rely on public assistance to make ends meet. Too many Walmart associates can’t afford the company’s health insurance or aren’t eligible for it due to their part-time status. Too many women at Walmart earn less than our male coworkers at every level in the company—in 2001, for instance, we earned an average of $5,200 less per year than men in the same job, making it even harder for us to support our families.

Marissa Mayer, we’re calling on you to act. My hope is that, just like you did in climbing the corporate ladder, you will be a pioneer on Walmart’s board and help change the culture of America’s largest private-sector employer. You can be a voice for us. You can be a voice for change and a voice for a better Walmart. You have shattered so many glass ceilings in your career. Help us do the same in ours.

The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent WMC. WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates.

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