For 35,000 seniors, bagging groceries in Walmart for tips was a way to make a little money but at the start of the pandemic, those workers were dismissed.
Now, Walmart has announced that the seniors will not return to work, a move that has triggered a boycott among customers.
With the viral hashtag #YoNoComproEnWalmart (“I don’t buy from Walmart”), social media users are calling on others to join the boycott, which also calls on participants to stop shopping at Walmart-owned Bodega Aurrera, Sam’s Club and Superama.
The company announced last December that the baggers would not return, based on the fact that plastic bags are now banned around the country and the idea that shoppers do not want the seniors touching their products for sanitary reasons.
“We have observed that our clients want to avoid that third parties have contact with the merchandise,” the company said at the time. “We have stopped providing single-use plastic bags to support the care of the environment, so our clients now bring their own bags and have gotten used to packing the merchandise.”
Social media users argued that the job could still exist, since shoppers bring their own cloth bags and in some stores, paper bags are available.
To protest the decision, dozens of affected seniors marched on the National Palace on Wednesday, demanding that President López Obrador do something about the issue.
“It’s unjust that they make us feel like a nuisance. This is the only place where they give us work and we want them to see that we can still keep working,” said Susana, 64.
She had worked for three years as a grocery bagger, and said her life savings were not enough to live on in retirement.
“I decided to become a bagger to support myself, but I realized it made me feel productive,” she said.
López Obrador said Thursday that the federal government will call on Walmart to reconsider the decision.
“I will analyze it and call on them to help, to contribute. Walmart is one of the commercial enterprises with the highest sales, so why not help?” the president said in response. “It’s a matter of talking with them; often issues can be resolved with dialogue, with communication.”
The president instructed Leticia Ramírez, the director of citizen services in the president’s office, to reach out to Walmart executives to analyze the situation.