More about: Jeremy Bird ’00 and Wake-Up Wal-Mart
by Steve Charles
May 25, 2006
Position: Field Director,
Wake-Up Wal-Mart Campaign,
Working to secure a living wage and adequate health care for Wal-Mart employees, through community coalitions and consumer education.
As a kid, I remember sitting in the hallway of my family's trailer in High Ridge, Missouri listening to my parents' worried kitchen table conversations. They would talk late at night worrying about how we would piece things together so that we could afford food until the next paycheck, or how they would be able to pay for my and my older brother's health care needs. I innocently wondered why my parents, who went to work every day, were forced to have such tough conversations.
That experience, coupled with an education in liberation theology and community organizing, instilled in me a deep sense of economic justice. After graduating from Harvard Divinity School and teaching with Marshall for a semester, I took my sense of economic justice to political campaigning, organizing with the Howard Dean campaign in the New Hampshire Primary and then running the organizing training program for the Democratic National Committee during the general election.
While disappointed in the outcome of our battle to defeat Bush, Inc., I have continued my fight for economic justice, this time within the labor movement where I am now directing the field organizing program for the Wake-Up Wal-Mart campaign with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW - www.wakeupwalmart.com). Our task is to bring justice to 1.3 million workers - people like my mother, who worked for Wal-Mart for nearly four years, and young children who should never be forced to sit in trailer park hallways worried about their health care.
Jeremy's Current Project:
I am the Field Director for the Wake-Up Wal-Mart campaign. Our goal is to force Wal-Mart to provide a living wage and adequate health care to its workers. We are building community coalitions around all 3,700 Wal-Mart locations that will successfully educate consumers and force Wal-Mart to change.
We are organizing community and labor activists to educate and convince Wal-Mart consumers to change their shopping behavior by building strong community coalitions led by Leaders for Change (the equivalent to a precinct captain on a political campaign) because America's largest company should reflect values of fairness and dignity for working Americans.
Our organizational goals for 2005 are to build community coalitions around a targeted number of Wal-Mart stores—covering targeted counties throughout the U.S.—and to identify a specific number of Wake-Up Wal-Mart supporters.
After four months, we have over 67,000 supporters, over 2,000 Leaders for Change, and over 150 legitimate and tested community coalitions.
Our resources are the UFCW Local Unions, other labor unions, coalition partners (Democracy for America, NOW, Jobs with Justice and other progressive organizations), community activists, and other allies. We also have the wisdom and experience of many people who have been engaged in this battle for years.