News of President Obama's visit to Mountain View's Walmart Friday prompted an employee of the store to speak up about not being able to pay for food, rent and healthcare on her wages.
"After four years working at Walmart in Mountain View, I am bringing home about $400 every two weeks (I'd like to get more hours, but I'm lucky if I work 32 hours a week)," said Mountain View Walmart employee Pam Ramos in an article posted on Salon.com today. "That's not enough to pay for bills, gas and food. All I can afford to eat for lunch is a cup of coffee and a bag of potato chips."
Ramos says she wants Obama to know that she sleeps on the floor of her son's home, keeps all of her belongings in her car and cannot afford medical expenses, despite Walmart's health insurance benefits.
"I used to think, 'At least I have my health and my family.' But my doctor thinks I may have colon cancer, and with all of the money I still owe the hospital, I'm not sure how to finish the tests and get treatment. Even though I do have insurance through Walmart, the co-pays are more than I can afford with only $400 every two weeks."
Ramos says she is scared for herself and her fellow workers and "the direction that companies like Walmart are taking our country" and for what she calls "the Walmart economy."
"We expect to work until our deaths because we don't have any retirement savings and are concerned about the future in front of our children and grandchildren," she writes.
Ramos wrote the piece in the face of a considerable threat: Walmart's policies and practices that discourage union organizing and criticism of Walmart's compensation by employees. Walmart managers even attended a recent Mountain View City Council meeting, presumably to monitor another Mountain View Walmart employee who spoke in favor of raising the city's minimum wage.
An analysis recently found that if Walmart wanted to pay workers a living wage without dipping into the company's billions in profits, prices could be raised by 1.4 percent, which for a box of macoroni and cheese, would mean a rise from 68 cents to 69 cents. Such a move is projected to save taxpayers $300 million a year in federal assistance to Walmart employees who live in poverty.
Walmart officials were not immediately available for comment.