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Aired August 25, 2013 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MORGAN SPURLOCK, CNN HOST (voice-over): Nowadays, fewer than 12 percent of Americans belong to a union and lately they have come under attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The union has to be broken.
SPURLOCK: Being blamed for everything from the failure of our school system to the death of the Twinkie.
But if the American middle class disappear, the middle class could go with them. Income inequality in this country is already nearing record highs and the worker is on the losing side of the equation. We know workers still need protection. The question is, are unions still the best way for them to get it?
These days, there are a lot of people who question whether labor unions are even necessary. According to a 2012 Gallup poll, just 52 percent of Americans consider themselves pro-union versus 48 percent who don't.
Today, not only have unions been villainized (ph) but now people just don't even feel like they are necessary. Some people feel like unions have almost been their own worst enemy, you know, for many years. A couple years back I was doing a job at the consumer electronics show and I was working for this company and we had a booth and I couldn't plug a plug into the wall. I couldn't even flip a light switch without having a union guy do it for me. I was like, well, you know, no wonder nobody wants like work with these guys or support them.
You know, have unions kind of seen their time come and go and are we like in a new era?
I'm here in New York City, a union stronghold, trying to figure just out what a successful 21st century labor union might look like. So I'm meeting with Chaz Rynkiewicz.
Hey, how are you?
CHAZ RYNKIEWICZ, GENERAL BUILDING LABORERS' LOCAL 79: Hey, how are you doing?
SPURLOCK: Good. Morning. A proud member of construction in General Building Laborers' Local 79.
RYNKIEWICZ: Very excited to see you.
SPURLOCK: And today, he is taking me along to participate in my first union action.
So what's the plan for today? What are we going to do?
RYNKIEWICZ: Today, we are going to a financial building. They reneged on a promise they made with us to build their next building union. And so, we are going back to the building to do a protest there, inform the public, inform the tenants and make a little noise.
RYNKIEWICZ: All right.
SPURLOCK: How long have you been in the union now?
RYNKIEWICZ: I've been in the union 19 years now.
SPURLOCK: What was the difference between like the -- like a nonunion job site and a union job site?
RYNKIEWICZ: It's night and day. I mean, the safety is what I remember. I remember when I would work nonunion, it was like, OK, kid, get up on that ladder and get it done. It was like they didn't care if you fell. The equipment was horrendous. I mean, the pay was terrible. The nonunion worker live ten people to one bedroom apartment, you know what I mean. They have no medical coverage.
Just no way anybody can make a living like that long term. It's just not going to happen. And then I landed on a union job and I knew that was for me and I went with it. I have given back to the union ever since. Kicking ass for the working class. Out there doing our thing. Yes.
SPURLOCK: Today's protest is on Manhattan's west side, where more than 75 plumbers, iron workers and laborers have come together and take a stand and drum up public support for union workers.
RYNKIEWICZ: Gather around.
A lot of you were probably here a year ago when this building was going up nonunion. It was being built nonunion, they promised they would build the next three jobs union. The first one went by two new contract. It has gone up union. Now, the second one just started, he took it away from one of our union contractors and gave it to the same piece of dirt that built this building. So we are going to make a lot of noise today guys?
RYNKIEWICZ: All right. All right. We're going to blow up one, two, three, about four racks.
RYNKIEWICZ: There you go.
SPURLOCK: But if you want to get the public support, you have got to get the public's attention and Chaz says a unique way of doing it.
RYNKIEWICZ: OK. We are going to stay on this beast up.
SPURLOCK: Giant rat that stands more than 12 feet tall on the site of the protest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we ready to fight? Are we ready to fight for decency? Are we ready to fight for respect? Are we ready to fight for union wages? Are we ready to fight?
SPURLOCK: Just when he's gaining some momentum, New York's finest show up to shut the whole thing down.
RYNKIEWICZ: How are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a permit for this?
RYNKIEWICZ: No, we don't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clear the sidewalks. We're giving you five minutes.
RYNKIEWICZ: We don't need a permit to demonstrate. We have the right to demonstrate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are walking in the street. You have five minutes to clear.
RYNKIEWICZ: We'll make sure the sidewalk is clear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No noise. You don't get a permit for the noise.
RYNKIEWICZ: We don't need a permit for the noise. We have a right to assemble. We have a right to the freedom of speech and assembly.
OK. He says we don't have a right to protest but he's wrong. We do have a right to protest. A lot of times the first police officer on the scene really has no clue what he's talking about. A sergeant will probably come along that knows a little more. By the time it gets to the lieutenant and captain, we'll be all right. We'll figure something out. All right?
SPURLOCK: This is a man who's had years of protesting on the streets in New York City. There are three different unions represented here today. These are the laborers who built the buildings. These are the plumbers, the welders and they are all out here to protest, you know, this one is one contractor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we ready to fight? Are we ready to fight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That means I've got to move away.
RYNKIEWICZ: OK. All right. So, we will maintain the sidewalk maybe an hour tops. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be here a while, all right?
RYNKIEWICZ: Yes. No problem. We'll be hear and peaceful and no problem. And likewise, if you need anything you can see me and (INAUDIBLE).
SPURLOCK: Workers like Chaz didn't always have a voice.
Before America's labor movement began in the late 1800s, workers were subject to astonishing range of abuses. Men, women and children worked in sweat shops and lacked even basic civil human rights on the job. They often worked seven days a week with days 12 hours or longer. Sometimes they were locked in the factories and there was no such thing as a sick day or a fair wage. There was only one thing for workers to do, organize for better working conditions, safer job sites, and better pay.
When workers did try to organize, they were physically attacked, even shot at and killed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open warfare rages through the speed of the city. Three thousand union picketers battle 700 police. Guns, teargas, bobs and fist bring injuries to more than 80 persons and causes the death of two.
SPURLOCK: Workers literally paid for their rights with these rights that so many of us take for granted. The united auto workers, the international ladies garments workers union, the international brotherhood of teamsters, united mine workers of America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without an organization, you're a lone individual. Without any blanch and without recognition of any kind.
SPURLOCK: While most can agree on the importance of unions in the past, many believe that unions are now an obstacle to corporate growth and job creation in America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Businesses have to compete on quality of the product and the price of the product. Unions make companies less competitive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Union contracts help workers for a while but then they hurt even union workers. Because their cost or the rigid rules, slow growth and growth is what's best for workers.
GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm always proud to say, we don't have unions in South Carolina because we don't need unions in South Carolina.
BEN STEIN, AUTHOR, HOW TO RUN THE U.S.A.: Unions have been making a habit of saying, OK, we'll keep a pay raise down to a slightly outrageous minimum but we want a big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for when we retire. This is what killed the auto industry.
SPURLOCK: How much of this corporate spin is people being told they don't need unions just to more empower corporate interests? And how much of it is true?
SPURLOCK: For more than 50 years, union membership has been on the decline. Some people say it's because unions achieve what they set out to do a long time ago when many worker protections became laws, like the 40-hour work week and the federal minimum wage. They think that nowadays unions do workers more harm than good. Others, however, blame it on the anti-union movement, deliver on a play of large corporations to systematically destroy unions and workers rights initiatives by attempting to educate their employees on what they perceive to be the problems with unions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm speaking as a vocal home depot associate. To me, the idea of a union at home depot, that just doesn't seem right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They deduce money outs of my paycheck before I ever saw it, just like taxes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a union becomes a team member's representative, that team member loses the right to deal directly with the management team.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bottom line, at Target you don't need to pay dues to a third party to have a workplace where team members work together, listen to each other, and treat each other with dignity and respect.
SPURLOCK: Alfred DeMaria is a lawyer who specializes in union busting and there's no shortage of demand for her services. For 25 years, Alfred has been helping companies to lawfully keep unions out of their operations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We closed this plant down, man. We closed this plant down.
ALFRED DEMARIA, LAWYER: I have made a career out of union avoidance. Some labor union people might call that union busting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will learn the most effective ways to remain union-free.
DEMARIA: Management lawyers, me, we conduct intense unfair labor practice training. When a company comes to me and has a campaign, we teach the supervisors and managers what they can say and can't say in compliance with inter-lobby rules.
SPURLOCK: DeMaria believes that modern unions are not interested in working with employers or helping the workers and that only group unions that really benefit is themselves.
DEMARIA: Unions have a product to sell. Actually, it's a service that they are selling. You give me your monthly fee and I'll do x for you. The problem is, what can they actually guarantee you. You sign a union card and pay $500 a year in dues, you don't have any guarantee. SPURLOCK: He also tells clients that the best way to avoid a union is to create an environment where workers will be happy. He believes if you gave workers a fair shake, fair pay, decent benefits and an open- door policy to address their concerns, workers won't feel like they need union representation. When companies still fail to treat their workers well, DeMaria tells them what to expect.
DEMARIA: I have a statement up front I tell my clients. I say, if you get a union here, you get the union you deserve.
SPURLOCK: And DeMaria says that if unions wants someone to blame for the unions, they need to look no further than themselves.
DEMARIA: Labor starts to make a bad name for themselves. If they go to organizers and employees and see them picketing and see what they are shouting and see them with the flyers, that's not a good base to come back to employees and say, sign my card, I'll help you get an increase.
SPURLOCK: With the help of lawyers like Alfred DeMaria, corporations have become much more savvy in efforts to organize their companies. For many reasons, recent attempts to unionize workers have been largely unsuccessful at numerous major corporations in North America like Target, Starbucks, Delta, Coca-Cola, Nissan, Toyota, Whole Foods, McDonald's, Amazon, Apple, and the world's largest retailer, Walmart.
In the world of retail, Walmart is a giant. They have more than two million employees, a presence in 27 countries around the globe and took in nearly $447 billion in revenue just in 2012. They are the largest private employer in the world with sales greater than Microsoft, Google, and Apple combined. Their annual income is greater than the entire country of Argentina.
They are at the top of the retail game, which is one of the reasons why they set the standard for how the entire retail industry decides to treat its workers. And Walmart workers have made some shocking claims against their employer. Walmart faced everything from lawsuits and allegations of wage theft to unsafe working conditions to racial and gender discrimination.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are now 1.6 million plaintiffs alleging Walmart discriminated against women.
SPURLOCK: But it's when workers try to improve conditions that things get ugly. Like other corporations, Walmart is widely viewed as aggressive anti-union and workers who have attempted to organize their co-workers say they have been ostracized, threatened, and even terminated for exercising their rights in the workplace.
On black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, workers at Walmart were joined by members of the united food and commercial working union in a nationwide protest. If you want to draw attention to this struggle against a retailer, there's no better day to do in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Shoppers are having to walk through a bit of a protest. Take a look over here. What you are seeing at this southern California Walmart is a large group of workers as well as union members walking a picket line. This is a protest that's happening in the states of Texas, Maryland, Georgia, Wisconsin, trying to make the point to the company that they need to figure some of these issues out.
SPURLOCK: I try to get a representative from Walmart to go on camera and talk to the allegations against them but they refused. They said it's a very small number of employees that actually have grievances against the company. What they did say we should do is come here to this Walmart in North Bergen, New Jersey to talk to some hand-picked associates that they say are very happy to be working for them.
Hey, how are you?
YOSELIN, WALMART EMPLOYEE: Hi, how are you.
SPURLOCK: I'm Morgan.
YOSELIN: I'm Yoselin.
SPURLOCK: Nice to meet you.
YOSELIN: Nice to meet you, too.
SPURLOCK: How long have you worked for Walmart?
YOSELIN: I've worked for Walmart for 3 1/2 years now.
SPURLOCK: Do you have benefits?
YOSELIN: Yes, I do.
SPURLOCK: Full health and everything?
SPURLOCK: Are you a part-time employee?
YOSELIN: No, full time.
SPURLOCK: Yes. Have you been able to work out a schedule that works for you?
YOSELIN: Yes, definitely.
SPURLOCK: So you feel like you have a voice?
YOSELIN: Yes. I like the managers I work with. I like the associates that I work with.
SPURLOCK: Why do you think folks have grievances against the company?
YOSELIN: Honestly, I don't know. All I can say from my experience, great and positive experience.
SPURLOCK: Yes, thank you. YOSELIN: Well, you are welcome.
SPURLOCK: Wonderful to meet you.
Hey, I'm Morgan.
JESSICA, WALMART EMPLOYEE: Hi, how are you, I'm Jessica.
SPURLOCK: Jessica, nice to meet you. So, how long have you worked here at the Walmart?
JESSICA: I've worked for Walmart for about 4, 4 1/2 years now.
SPURLOCK: They have never been employees here trying to unionize this Walmart? No?
SPURLOCK: Some of the folks that we've heard from, one of the grievances that they say is it's not a living wage. Do you agree with that?
JESSICA: You know with Walmart, it's not just about the base pay. My store has a really good performance. Every quarter we got a bonus. So, that's extra money and that factors into everything. So, definitely, it is a living wage.
SPURLOCK: So you're happy?
JESSICA: I am.
SPURLOCK: So why are folks so unhappy?
JESSICA: I don't know. Not everybody's experience is the same.
SPURLOCK: Fantastic to meet you.
JESSICA: Thank you.
JESSICA: All right.
SPURLOCK: One thing's for sure, the next group of workers I talked to definitely had a different experience with Walmart.
Hi, I'm Morgan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Morgan. Mary.
SPURLOCK: Nice to meet you. CINDY MURRAY, WALMART SALES ASSOCIATE: How can we stand up as proud as we should in the United States when we are letting a billion dollar company treat their associates with disrespect? And it happens every day.
SPURLOCK: Our Walmart is an organization dedicated to improving conditions for workers at the retail giant. These workers were among those who protested on black Friday. And in spite of what they say or intimidating tactics on the part of their employer, they are standing their ground.
MURRAY: If you are a part time here, you never get once to power. They pay for nothing of our health care.
MARY WATKINS, WALMART SALES ASSOCIATE: We should be allowed to call in when we're sick, you know. We shouldn't be threatened if we can't come in.
COLBY HARRIS, WALMART SALES ASSOCIATE: People need to understand that these are morality issues, and to not respect I mean living wage, healthcare, all of that included to not give the associates that you're saying that you're indispensable, you know. At any moment, once they are done using you, they are going to get rid of you.
SPURLOCK: How many employees are there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A million three.
SPURLOCK: And then how many people are in the organization?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thousands.
SPURLOCK: Is that why people are afraid of joining, out of 1.4 million, there is thousands of member or people are just afraid because they could be gone like that?
MURRAY: They can be replace. They scare these people. They scare the hell out of them, OK?
SPURLOCK: I'm just curious, without having the support of all the associates then how do you make a difference?
MURRAY: You know, look at here. The reason we went on strike was to make a point for every associate across the country and that is that we have several rights. We, in the United States, we got freedom. And if we want to organize, that is our right. We have people who have died and we have movement to make it better to make it better for labors in the country. We are part of what makes America go around.
SPURLOCK: You have to admire their dedication and passion. But you also have to wonder how in the world will a small group of sales associates like this take on the largest corporation in the world and win?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SPURLOCK: Whether you're for unions or against them, there's no denying that wealth distribution is changing. The American middle class is shrinking and some people believe that shift is directly correlated to the demise of the unions.
I'm here to the headquarters of the SCIU to talk to three of the leaders of three of New York's cities biggest unions to try and find out.
In the past few years, there continues to be a delineation of the middle class in America that somewhat parallels kind of the decline of the labor movement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No doubt. No question.
GARY LABARBERA, PRESIDENT, NYC BUILDING AND TRADES COUNCIL: To the day I die I'll argue that the vehicle to the middle class was organized labor because the importance issues of good wages, good health care, representation in the workplace, those were all of the things that we stand for in organized labor because the important issues are good wages and good healthcare, representation in the workplace, those are all the things that we stand for and organized later.
The three of us as labor leaders, nobody here has a problem with developers or corporations making money. Our issue is, don't fill your pockets by taking money out of our pockets.
SPURLOCK: From 1978 to 2011, the annual compensation of a typical private sector worker grew a mere 5.7 percent but a typical CEO's compensation increased more than 725 percent. The huge economic gains that have been made over the past 30 years have consistently gone to the wealthy, which only increases the income gap and pushes people further down the economic ladder.
PETER WARD, PRESIDENT, NY HOTEL TRADES COUNCIL: This disparity of wealth that exists today, this is the largest gap between the haves and have-nots that's ever existed here before and it's unsustainable. There's been such a deterioration in the job base in this country because of offshoring. What we're left with is an economy of service jobs.
SPURLOCK: Between 1980 and 2009, the U.S. lost 38 percent of its manufacturing jobs. Most of these were what might be considered solid middle class jobs. The type that haven't come back during the economic recovery. But there's been a new source of job growth, the service industry. Responsible for an astounding 97 percent of the job growth in the U.S. in 2012. While not all of these were low-paying jobs, lower wage occupations represent half, about 58 percent of job recovery growth since the recession.
The glut of low-paying jobs means that employees often need one to make ends meet which might be why 17.1 million Americans now hold second jobs. Many of these were in retail service and increasingly in the most American of industries, fast food where minimum wage jobs that provide just $7.25 an hour prevail. HECTOR FIGUEROA, PRESIDENT, SEIU LOCAL 328J: It has to make good jobs out of retail, fast food, service workers. These jobs can be good, middle class paying jobs.
SPURLOCK: These are arguments that these are not skilled labor positions, a 15-year-old, 16-year-old can come in there and get a job. You don't really need special training.
LABARBERA: Have you been into a fast food store lately? Because of the contraction of jobs, you are not seeing 14, 15-year-old kids working in fast food. You're seeing people at it working as a second job to try and support a family. All right? We are fighting to create an environment with dignity of work that is respected and people can thrive, not simply survive.
SPURLOCK: In New York City, the fast food workers have had enough. They are banding together to demand what they say is a living wage of $15 an hour and a union of their own.
CROWD: We can't survive on 7.25! We can't survive on $7.25.
SPURLOCK: This is Gregory Renoso. He is a Dominican immigrant who lives in New York and has worked for Domino's Pizza for about a one and a half year. He and his wife, Angela, a retail employee, make just $1650 combined. Their rent is $1,000 a month which means that even though they both have jobs, they depend on food stamps to feed themselves and their 3-year-old daughter. It's a constant struggle just for them to stay afloat.
According to the Miriam Webster dictionary, a living wage is a wage sufficient to provide the necessities and comfort essential to an acceptable standard of living. So, what it that item two for Gregory?
Using a living wage calculator created by MIT, as a resident of Brooklyn, New York, if Gregory were single, his living wage would be $12.57 an hour. But as a husband and father of one child, Gregory would have to make $20.93 an hour to make a living wage. Certainly where you live has a direct effect on what your living wage is. But in Gregory's case, that is whopping $13 an hour increase from what he makes now.
GREGORY RONOSO, BROOKLYN: Right now, we never have lie opportunity to save something. What about my future? What about my daughter? She kind of go to (INAUDIBLE) in the future.
SPURLOCK: Gregory became a leader at his store, encouraging his fellow Domino's employees to join a union and to seek a $15 an hour wage. According to Gregory, Domino's wasn't pleased.
RENOSO: Domino's, they retaliated. They started co-hours. They are scaring my co-workers. They set up meetings saying that we, the union, is not good for you guys. Union is going to take money, you know. They -- and finally they fire me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we are again, someone tries to get unionized and they get fired. Today we're going to send Domino's a loud and clear message that the injustices against fast food workers has to stop now.
SPURLOCK: Today, rallying fast food workers from all over the city have gathered to support Gregory and his struggle against Domino's and a protest in front of the branch where he worked.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: the CEO of domino's makes $4,327 an hour. The CEO of Domino's has had an 800 percent raise in the past four years. Gregory and his friends and brothers and sisters have had no raise.
SPURLOCK: We contacted Domino's for a statement about Gregory's firing and they sent us this one which reads in part, that what he claims he was terminated for and what he was actually terminated for are entirely different things. The company also said that they received reports about Gregory's serious workplace misconduct and that they took immediate action to ensure that neither our team members or customers would be exposed to this inappropriate behavior any longer. They didn't explain what the inappropriate behavior was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we don't get it --
SPURLOCK: Gregory maintains that he was fired because of his attempts to organize his fellow employees. The type of retaliatory action that Gregory describes is common, even though it's against the law and it's one reason why so many employees of large corporations are afraid to unionize.
Why is it a corporation's job to make sure that everyone who works there is taken care of and has all of these benefits?
LABARBERA: Corporations who care because at the end of the day they ultimately will be at the short end of the stick just like everybody else because there will be no money to spend on anybody, right? Without a vibrant strong middle class, there is no future.
SPURLOCK: The problem is, most companies in the U.S. aren't worried about the future because they are too busy worrying about today and trying to stay competitive in the global economy. Companies today need to stay very, very lean to stay alive. They have got shareholders to please, competitors to beat and quarterly projections to meet. So, it is easy to understand the appeal of cutting costs wherever and however they can.
And one of the biggest cost burdens on any company is its workforce, which is why most companies that can find a way to pay workers less will, either by eliminating jobs in the United States or shipping American jobs overseas. If a corporation can stay competitive, they might just might be able to keep the edge that they need to stay alive and in the world of global capitalism, that edge makes all the difference.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Treat your workers like you should.
SPURLOCK: If you're going to take on one of the most powerful corporations in the world, you're going to need some powerful allies. So today the workers of our Walmart are heading to Washington where they are taking their case to politicians.
Why did you decide to get involved? Why bother?
HARRIS: Nothing has ever happened is positive in this country without people saying, hey, that's wrong. It's like a snowball effect because all these other companies, you know, follow what the major companies do to the Walmart and, you know, Coke and all the big companies like this. I feel like if my generation doesn't step up and do something about it, this is the direction that America is going to go because nobody is going to stop it.
We're at the capitol and I'm with the our Walmart workers that they are going to meet with members of Congress. Each associate is going to be with their respective representatives in hopes that not only will the representatives listen, but that they will also help push for change within the organization.
I'm going with a group from Florida meeting with Representative Alan Grayson.
REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: Hi, how are you doing?
SPURLOCK: How are you Congressman?
GRAYSON: Very good.
What you're doing is you're setting an example. It's you against this enormous huge institution that employs over a million people and has a billion of dollars of its pocket. It's you against all of that and you just have to be brave, keep summoning that courage because if everybody like you in your position comes together, then you'll all be better off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
SPURLOCK: So Congressman, do you think unionization has got a place for Walmart?
GRAYSON: Definitely, yes. There is no question about it. The union workers get a better deal.
SPURLOCK: Just as the workers are afraid to speak out and step up for fear retaliation, are your fellow Congressmen and senators also afraid of the same thing?
GRAYSON: I really so, you know. I knew about the events of thanks giving and, you know, it was a clear-cut decision to show my support. I was kind of surprised when I heard that there were only two of us in the whole country, 135 congressmen, 100 senators, only two of us decided to show our support.
This is something that obviously needs to happen. It's got to change not just for the benefit of the specific workers but for the benefit of the middle class America. People need to be paid more for their work. So it's got to end and the only way that it can end is to show people that there is a future and a future is better if they organize.
SPURLOCK: But the elation of getting Grayson's support didn't last long because according to the hour Walmart members we were filming with, on that day, Walmart had informed it is workers including Cindy, Barbara and other members of our Walmart that their black Friday protest was not a federally protected action. That means that every worker who participated in the protest is now in serious danger of losing their jobs.
MURRAY: They believe what we did isn't right.
SPURLOCK: The group has called an emergency meeting and invited representatives from the United Food and commercial workers' union to advise them.
MURRAY: We were taken to the corn path, each and every one of us individual today.
SPURLOCK: For what happened?
MURRAY: Our managers took each one of us, the three of us individual out to the corner (INAUDIBLE) where nobody else was. He brought his other co-manager, a big guy. And one is saying, you want first?
BARBARA ELLIOTT, WALMART SALES ASSOCIATE: They took me first.
SPURLOCK: And what did he say?
ELLIOTT: He read a sheet of paper that was saying that we were destructing Walmart business by--. No, they would not call it destruct. They called it a work stop what he considered a work stop to as a fact the we didn't come to work on October 9th and 10th and black Friday. So he said under their guidelines if you miss three absences in six months they can terminate you. So if we participate again in a work stoppage, they will take action against us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said you weren't protected by federal law.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They said you weren't protected by federal law?
MURRAY: Yes. He said they didn't consider that as federal protection.
SPURLOCK: They said the same thing to you as well?
DEBORAH GAYDOS, ASSISTANT GENERAL COUNSEL, UNITE FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS UNION: OK. And I think you guys know a lot of this but you have a right to engage in concerted activity and the strike actions that you took back in October and on black Friday were protected strikes. You were protesting the retaliation that the people who spoke out were receiving.
GAYDOS: And that is absolutely protected activity. It's protected by the law, the federal law, the national labor relations act and you have a first amendment right of freedom of association. You're allowed to conduct this kind of activity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SPURLOCK: These workers believe their rights have been violated and they want to do something about it. But it's still a tough choice for anybody to take a stand to put your own livelihood in jeopardy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have decided to take a strike because I'm supposed to be at work tomorrow but because of the statement that they released to other stores and what happened to y'all directly, I'm going to take a strike because it's wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Actually, I hate to say it but I really do think we shouldn't wait.
MURRAY: I'm willing to stand with Colby. Now is when they are doing it to the people in our stores. Now is when we have to stand up and say, you haven't made us walk the other way. We are still here. I'm not going anywhere. I mean, come on. Changing Walmart can change the way that other people treat their employees. It has to start somewhere and if it's us that has to do the stopping, we're committed to doing that.
SPURLOCK: So, if you guys do this tomorrow, you know, if they see you guys saying deal, do you think other people from the store will come out and be a part of this? Do you think you'll get other people?
MURRAY: Some of them are scared to death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even if they don't necessarily come outside, but they will at least see that we continuously take action and that we come back to work every time that we take an action. So, eventually it will help them get over their fears.
SPURLOCK: They are scared but they are not letting that stop them.
ELLIOTT: Just let me know what time it is.
SPURLOCK: They believe that someone has to take a personal risk for the greater good, scared or not they are going to be the ones to do it.
MURRAY: They told us we can't strike or they would hold it against us. So right now I'm going to go over and I'm going to hand them a letter and tell him I'm going on strike right now.
(APPLAUSE) SPURLOCK: Cindy, Barbara, and the other embattled workers of our Walmart have made a bold decision. They have decided to take a strike.
How are you feeling, Cindy?
MURRAY: Nervous, but I know I'm doing the right thing.
MURRAY: I know I'm doing the right thing, too. If we don't do it, who will do it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And right now is the time if ever there was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We would like to speak to Frank?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frank's not here today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we speak to you or Jake? May we speak with you?
We, the Walmart associates, whose signatures appear below are not working today to protest Walmart's tenth assignment to associates. We have spoken out of things like Walmart's low take-home pay, unpredictable work schedules, unaffordable healthcare benefits and Walmart's retaliation against the associates that have spoken out.
These associates are members of our Walmart and they will not be silenced. It is illegal for Walmart to attempt to (INAUDIBLE), to retaliate against them. Today we say no to Walmart's retaliation in an attempt to silence members of our Walmart who have spoken out for change at Walmart.
Any adverse action that Walmart management takes some retaliation against us for calling at and not reporting to work, including actions like cutting our hours, bemoaning us, transferring us to a different department or attempting to permanently replace us will constitute a violation of the national labor relations act. We demand and to Walmart's attempt on some associates who speak out and it is retaliatory unfair labor practice.
SPURLOCK: Barbara and Cindy, they gave a letter that basically read that said they are going on strike and now they are going to hand out flyers and hold posters and there is a lot of other workers have come to join them, a lot of other people from different stores, a lot of other supporters in the community. Looking like there's going to be 20 some people here today.
Hey, I'm Morgan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
SPURLOCK: Nice to meet you. You walked off the job today? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
SPURLOCK: You walked off the job today and decided to join the strike?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
SPURLOCK: So what made you decide to do that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess I'm tired of the retaliation, the way I'm treated, cutting my hours, messing with me base, messing with me totally. Know your right. They can't push you around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Want to collect this flyers, baby.
SPURLOCK: Passing out flyers may not be glamorous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, ma'am. Just want to give you this leaflets.
SPURLOCK: But according to worker advocates, it works. Because the worker unions often boils down to little more than this. Making the public aware of their feeling that even today American laborers are being treated unfairly and that we can come together to fix it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We would love you to read our flyer.
SPURLOCK: Of course, not everyone agrees.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do these people not know what unions do? When you pay union dues, you know where that goes?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want different things to change for us. We have no health care. Does anybody know that we have no health care?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get a different job. Go to a place that gives you health care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, that's the big problem. When you run away and get another job, you're causing the next person to keep going through those things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
SPURLOCK: Sir, can I ask you a couple of questions? Yes, I'd love to ask you a couple of questions. Yes. So what are your thoughts on the people who are out here striking today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if they don't like their job here, they should go get another one. If you want health care and they are not going to give it to you, go to some place that does.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are just a group that has no right. They are just stirring up nothing for nothing. This is a made-up contrived situation. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you start working here, you know it's a minimum wage job, number one. You know that there's no benefits, no health benefits. That's why they have the low price. If you want them to have health benefits, than the price of everything is going to go up. Who is that going to hurt? The consumer like me. I'm on a fixed income, retired. It's going to hurt me.
SPURLOCK: According to a study done by the UC Berkeley labor center, if every single worker at Walmart were paid a living wage of $12 an hour, up from an average of about 48.81 per hour, the cost would increase prices about one percent. If they passed the entire cost on to consumers, it would add $12.50 to a customer's annual bill, a an average of 46 cents a trip. That may not seem like a lot. But to some consumers. Even a small increase is too big, the perception of consumer harm is hard to overcome and these companies want to keep it that way, even if the workers don't.
Do you feel like today was a success?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. We knew it wouldn't be an overnight process but we're going to be here however long it takes. So you know, we're in it for the long run until things change.
SPURLOCK: The odds are awfully long for workers like Colby but these guys aren't giving up. They believe they are right and they have the heart that keeps them in the fight and that's something that no company on earth can take away.
SPURLOCK: After assessing the current landscapes of unions in America, I have to admit, they face a real test in the years to come. I mean, maybe the numbers aren't lying and the times of strong unions in the U.S. have come and gone. Ultimately it's too soon to tell. Regardless of your stance on unions, it's clear that in the 21st century, workers need to keep fighting to get the protections they deserve. But how? A step in the right direction might be a higher minimum wage.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to work in poverty and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.
SPURLOCK: And to that effect, some good news came early this year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy new year New York.
SPURLOCK: And March of 2013, New York state passed legislation increasing the state minimum wage to $8 per hour starting in 2014. The wage would continue to rise incrementally to $9 by 2016.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Current minimum wage is unlivable. It's only $14,616.
New York will join 19 other states in D.C. with minimum wages above the federal minimum. Connecticut and California passed similar laws in may and campaigns to raise the minimum wage have kicked off in several more.
Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, introduced the fair minimum page act of 2013 which would gradually the increase the federal minimum wage to 10.10 an hour by 2015.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The key part of this effort is building opportunity for workers earning at or near the minimum wage who are not only starting to reach the middle class. But our falling further and further behind each day. These workers fill essential and often difficult jobs. They clean our offices, wait on us in restaurants and stores, and provide daycare for our children or take care of our parents and our grandparents.
SPURLOCK: Gregory Renoso still not reinstated at his job, He continues to speak out on behalf of workers ;rights and has brought charges against Domino's that are being investigated by the national labor relations board.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I work hard to provide for my family. Minimum wage is not enough.
SPURLOCK: Not much has changed for our Walmart workers either, but they are still going to work, hoping for a better future.
It's very likely that income inequality will be a problem in this country for the foreseeable future. But if unions continue to lose their influence, something will need to take their place to ensure our rights as Americans to life, liberty, and the pursuit of a living wage.