Mary Watkines, who helped lead the fight for workers’ rights at Walmart in Washington state, passed away Feb. 12 after a long battle with cancer. Mary’s brother Larry, and her sons Nicholas, Mark, and Kacey, along with the pastor of the God’s Kingdom Christian Fellowship church in Tacoma put on a “Celebration of Life” service March 2. In attendance were family, former co-workers and unionists Watkines worked with.
In 2013, Mary turned my life around and got me involved with “OURWalmart,” an organization which helped defend workers on the job. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made, getting me to fight back as part of an organized effort. Fighting for workers’ rights was very dear to her. She was treated wrongly by Walmart and witnessed a very dear friend of ours die at work because the company wouldn’t give her the time off to go see a doctor. Mary participated in actions in Seattle for $15 an hour and went to protests around the country opposing Walmart’s treatment of its employees.
In explaining who his mother was, her son Nicholas wrote, “Mary was brave. She stood down fear and Walmart’s attempts to consistently silence her from speaking out.”
“I have spent my time advocating for an increased minimum wage in Washington state, drawing strength from my faith in God and the power of workers to make change,” Mary wrote after she was illegally fired for the second time — she had won her job back once already. “I worked hard every day in my store and did my best to model dignity in the workplace.”
Federal Way, Washington