PITTSBURG — The woman who faced down Walmart is carrying on her battle for workers’ rights now that she is no longer an employee of the largest retailer in the world.
“Now I can talk about how I felt,” said Betty Dukes, who worked for Walmart for 21 years, seven months and six days. She will appear at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to kick off her push for equal rights for all employees and the freedom to unionize.
“The D.C. event will be the launching, the nucleus for going forward for women’s equality and a workers’ rights movement,” said Dukes, who spent her career at the Pittsburg Walmart store.
The March 29 date will mark the fifth anniversary of the largest civil rights class action lawsuit ever brought before the Supreme Court.
Dukes was the lead plaintiff in the case, Dukes v. Walmart Stores Inc., that represented 1.6 million women. However, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case as a class action.
Plaintiffs settled individually with Walmart, as did Dukes who left the retailer’s workforce on Dec. 31, 2015.
By establishing The Betty Dukes Foundation, she hopes to create a national campaign and is planning to appear in other cities to rouse support. She was not ready to announce the other cities on her agenda.
“What you know, Walmart knows,” she said, explaining her hesitance to show her hand.”I’m trying to create a movement that could change the lives of many.”
Dukes is passionate about protecting low-income workers who, she says, have been marginalized as a viable part of society.
Her issues are both equal pay for women and the freedom to unionize.
President John F. Kennedy signed a bill assuring equal pay for women. “But,” she observed, “it still has not happened in all of the 50 states.”
Her goal is to strengthen survival of the next generation. “So many jobs are outsourced. There’s not much work left in United States.”
“The National Labor Relations Board says that every worker has a right to unionize without retaliation. But not everybody is aware of that.”
Dukes hopes her foundation and her campaigns will educate workers of these rights.
According to the American Association of University Women, at the time the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, requiring employers to give equal pay for equal work, women received 59 cents for every dollar men were paid. In 2015, that figure was 79 cents.