Walmart management and shoppers react as food drive for store employees gains national attention

CANTON, Ohio - Controversy continues to swirl around a Canton Walmart because of a Thanksgiving food drive inside the store.

Employees are donating food, but not to the community. The non-perishable items are being collected for co-workers.

A picture of colored bins placed on the floor of an employee-only area, along with a sign that reads, "Please donate food items here so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving", has spurred a nationwide debate on wages at Walmart.

The picture, taken by a worker, was posted on the Facebook page for Organization United for Respect (OUR) Walmart.

The pro-union group argues the food drive proves Walmart isn't paying workers enough.

Some shoppers interviewed outside the store on Atlantic Boulevard NE agreed with that contention.

"I do agree that they could raise their salaries a little bit and then they wouldn't need to do the food drive," said Debbie Cramer of Canton.

Others have no problem with the giving back program.

"I say the more you help, the better. If people need food, they need food. Give it to them," said Jesse Collins of Plain Township.

Jo Zurbrugg, a shift manager at the store, said the food drive was the idea of workers who wanted to help fellow employees facing problems around the holidays, such as a layoff in the family or rising medical costs.

She said 12 to 15 workers will get food assistance and the store will donate turkeys to the families.

"When people want to share and do something right, don't nitpick it apart and try to make it look like a bad thing, because it is not." Zurbrugg said.

Walmart said the national hourly rate for full-time associates is $12.57. However the group Our Walmart places the average salary between $8 and $10 an hour.

Minimum wage in Ohio is $7.85.

"We didn't create any standard of wages in the United States of America by any means. We do give raises every single year and a lot of places can't say that. You get 40 to 60 cents here at Walmart every single year," Zurbrugg said.

The store said 2013 was actually the second year for the program, and the plan is to have a similar food drive around Christmas.

Walmart management was admittedly caught off guard by the nationwide publicity.

"There's always some negative stuff going on in the world. We just ignore all that and take care of ourselves within our own building," Zurbrugg said.

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