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Momentum Builds for Historic Black Friday Strike at Walmart

Jake Olzen
Waging Nonviolence / New Analysis
Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
“Specific dates have not been announced yet out of concern to minimize chances for Walmart to preemptively silence workers’ voices.”
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“We are standing up to live better,” say Walmart’s retail workers, playfully twisting Walmart’s slogan of “live better” into a rallying cry for better conditions and treatment. In a taste of what the nation’s largest retailer can expect on Black Friday, frustrated Walmart workers have again started walking off their jobs to protest their employer’s attempts to silence outspoken workers.

Workers from both the retail and warehouse sectors of Walmart’s supply chain have called for nation-wide protests, strikes and actions on, and leading up to, next Friday — the busiest shopping day of the year. In the past week, wildcat strikes in Dallas, Seattle and the Bay Area saw dozens of retail workers — from multiple store — walk away from their shifts, suggesting that the Black Friday threats are to be taken seriously.

Dan Schlademan, Director of the Making Change at Walmart campaign, said in a nation-wide conference call organized for media on Thursday that Walmart can expect more than 1,000 different protests, including strikes and rallies at Walmart stores between now and Black Friday.

According to organizers working with the Walmart retail workers’ association, OUR Walmart, stores around the country — including, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Washington D.C. and others — can expect workers to go on strike. Specific dates have not been announced yet out of concern to minimize chances for Walmart to preemptively silence workers’ voices.

“We are expecting a wide variety of activity — strikers right in front of their stores, demonstrations, flash mobs, rallies and people working to educate customers — I think it’s going to be a very creative day.” said Schlademan. “Brave strikers are seeing a huge amount of support from community allies.”

As Waging Nonviolence has previously reported, the historic wildcat strikes are invigorating a new form of labor organizing of non-union labor. By drawing on the support of community allies — particularly from religious and student groups — workers are finding it increasingly easier to resist their employer’s abuses.

In addition to joining striking workers at rallies at Walmart stores, supporters are able to donate to Making Change at Walmart to help the striking low-wage workers make up lost wages. In the form of food gift cards, the community support organization Making Change at Walmart is providing concrete ways for others to be in solidarity with Walmart’s workers. Thus far, $25,000 has been raised.

But this kind of grassroots support pales in comparison to the revenue and capital at Walmart’s disposal. Some Walmart executives are making upwards of $10 million a year while full-time retail workers struggle to make ends meet. Sara Gilbert, a customer service manager at a Seattle Walmart, makes only $14,000 a year to support her family.

“I work full time for one of the richest companies in the world and yet my children are on state healthcare and we get subsidized housing,” said Gilbert who joined other OUR Walmart associates in Seattle’s walkout on Thursday. Walmart posted almost $16 billion in profits last year and recently announced changes to employee healthcare premiums that could raise the cost for workers as much as 36 percent.

Also back in the struggle against Walmart are its warehouse workers. On November 14, the Inland Empire, Calif., warehouse workers — who are privately contracted through the logistics company NFI but move 100 percent Walmart goods — resumed their strike due to retaliations against outspoken workers. The workers were part of the 15-day strike in mid-September that re-ignited workers’ efforts to change Walmart’s treatment of its employees.

David Garcia, a warehouse worker from Southern California who took part in the first strike, was recently terminated for speaking out against unsafe working conditions and broken equipment. According to Elizabeth Brennan, an organizer with Warehouse Workers United with whom the NFI workers are affiliated, about three dozen workers have had their hours cut while others have been demoted and suspended in retaliatory efforts from Walmart’s contractor to curb organizing efforts.

“It’s been tough,” said Garcia. “My kids need food, school supplies and an apartment to sleep in at night, but right now it is difficult to provide them these basic things.”

On Thursday, six community supporters were arrested for blocking a major thoroughfare to the Walmart-contracted warehouse. The two dozen striking warehouse workers returned to work on November 16.

The Inland Empire strike, which still demands an end to unsafe working conditions, retaliatory practices and poor wages, comes during a crucial time when much of Walmart’s supply chain is moving into high gear. It remains unclear whether the strikes and walkouts will generate enough pressure to force Walmart to systematically change how it treats its 1.4 million employees, but the Walmart workers movement seems to be spreading and growing.

The Corporate Action Network is hosting online activism for supporters as well as publicizing some of the events planned at Walmart stores for Black Friday. While some activists for workers’ rights and just wages advocate boycotting Walmart and shopping on Black Friday in general, Making Change at Walmart has not called for boycotts but affirms all efforts that support workers’ rights to assemble and speak out.

Charlene Fletcher, a Walmart employee in California plans to go on strike to emphasize her message that Walmart is not listening to its workers. Fletcher and her husband both have to work Thanksgiving Day for Walmart and will miss spending the holiday with their two young children. Complaints have alleged that Walmart’s scheduling practices have made it very difficult for families to spend time with each other on holidays like Thanksgiving when Walmart plans to open its doors to shoppers that evening. Fletcher wants Walmart executives to know that Walmart’s employees are just as important as its customers.

“We are going to make the ultimate sacrifice,” said Fletcher who is also a part of OUR Walmart. “By going on strike on the busiest shopping day of the year, we hope to send a message out to Walmart that we are not a small percentage of workers who are struggling and that we mean business.”

Hey people, I am a server and

Hey people, I am a server and so I work all holidays too! So what?
I don't ever know how much money I will make but it is my job and it comes with responsibilities!!!
My bf works in WM warehouse and he pays his dues too. Holiday or not but it is a JOB and it pays well. Anybody can apply and see if they manage to do that. WM does value people that are willing to work and are responsible. I know few myself.
But did you ever notice the types of workers in WM store? Many are not the sharpest ones. They get paid for what they were hired to do! They can always quit too.Someone else will gladly fill the possition.
You know, there is plenty of jobs. I did search on line but you have to have specific education and willing to move. Even overseas.
I am one of those who doesn't have this kind of education so I work my butt off waiting tables and I am thankfull I can make a decent living working 6-7 days a week. I wasn't born in US but I do apreciate all that I accomlished here.
I am not ashamed of serving people. I was educated in Europe and I do regret not going back to school here but now it is too late for me but I am not crying poor like many US people. It seems like many feel entitled to whatever and that's why this country is in shambles.

Just a thought, triggered by

Just a thought, triggered by the Walmart controversy. Back when I began living on my own, in the military, and other jobs , I often had to work during the holidays. A lot of us did and we accepted it and our employers were grateful and respectful to us. Times have changed, however. Maybe if Walmart were to pay respectable, livable wages, the issue of working during holidays wouldn't be such a big deal. Now here is the rub,in my opinion:

Walmart heirs reportedly make more in three minutes from their dividends than all their "associates" combined earn in a year (or something to that effect). The wealthy and therefore powerful need to change their attitudes about employees or other middle and under-employed income earners. The U.S. has become what is being called a "corporatocracy" and there is plenty of hard evidence to verify this. The idea of placing investors' and upper management's profits needs to be re-prioritized to perhaps (1) product quality/value, (2) good wages and opportunity to become owners as well as being the work force, (3) pay executives, (4) pay outside investors. Even if the super wealthy were required to pay far more taxes than what is now being proposed, these entities would still be wealthy... and labor and education, etc., would benefit to a greater degree.

The powers of these entities must be reduced. Rather than buy into labels, for which few among us can actually define, we must make real the quest for fairness (no cheating) and parity (equal opportunity). In the 1960s, all young Americans were required to register for the draft, taxes for the very wealthy were close to 70% on what we call capital gains, gas/utility prices were regulated as were the prices for airfare, interest on consumer debt, regulations of where and how banks could do business, a dollar based on tangible assets and more. These constraints that were to protect citizens' best interests are gone.

Democracy has been "gamed." Unless we demand that both parties "man up" to their constituents, our problems will grow. We pay them to protect us—not just militarily—and it's time for them to do this.

I was a firefighter for 30

I was a firefighter for 30 years, we worked 24 on-48 off. We had 3 shifts, so you new you would work every holiday in a 3 year cycle. If you didn't like that, you could always quit. None of us did, at least for those reasons. If you can't abide with the conditions of your job, quit, there are plenty of other good paying jobs out there, and I'm sure your position will be filled immediately, as someone is standing in line almost begging for it right now....

Someone needs to point out

Someone needs to point out that Wal-Mart not only treats its employess bad the store is none too nice to customers either. The store in Hampton Virginia has probably 25 cash registers but it is very unusual to find more than 2 or three open for customers. No matter how many are open you can be sure there will be a long checkout line no matter what time you go into that store.

Recently I had to purchae some otc medication at 4:30 AM. I had to enter the store at the opposite end from the pharmacy. I am 72 years old and not in the best of health. The walk to the far end of the store and back was an unnecessary hardship and thoughtless. Then I had to wait in line behind three other customers, all of whom had baskets filled with purchases. I had a single item but was in line for about 20 minutes.

If there is an action at that store I will be there to support it.

You HAD to purchase otc

You HAD to purchase otc medicine at 4:30 am?

What are you? Nuts? There are no drugstores open 24/7 near you?

You HAD to go at 4:30 am?

Sadly, I doubt this "strike"

Sadly, I doubt this "strike" will be all that effective. The greed and mindless consumerism will win the day. Ideally, everyone would boycott stores and businesses that open on national holidays, but few if any consumers care about the workers that "serve" them.

Workers are people too. If you are not willing to work on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or your important "holy days", then don't ask others to work on theirs. If you are not willing to work for less than a living wage, don't expect anyone else to be willing to. Somehow this simple kindergarten lesson has been lost in the greed.

One can only hope these

One can only hope these courageous workers are successful and that the public supports them by not crossing picket lines. If the workers lose, we must make the promise to never shop at a wally world again and to let the Walton family and their managers know this now.

Sons and daughters of

Sons and daughters of Wally,
For heaven's sake, you have 98% of Americans eating out of your hand. Can't you let your employees have Thanksgiving and Christmas Day with their families.?Don't worry, there will be hoards knocking on your doors on Black Friday to get those TV'S that they can't buy on any other day of the year. As I said, yoiu have them eating out of your hands now so let loose a little and welcome all those shoppers on Black Friday at 5 AM. Appreciate your employees.

The 6 Walton family members

The 6 Walton family members who inherited Walmart stock have already accumulated as much wealth as 120 MILLION Americans at the bottom, and yet they pay a lower portion of their incomes in taxes than the average of their employees, who they treat like slaves and pay so poorly that a large percentage of them survive only with the help of food stamp and other assistance programs. It's outrageous. I hope America gets behind the protesting employees, boycotts Walmart's Black Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and that the greedy Waltons are taxed with a vengeance.

If other stores such as

If other stores such as Costco can pay a decent wage and treat their employees well and also make a profit, then so can Walmart. I have not stepped foot into a Walmart store in the past 11 years because of this issue and the fact their goods are mostly produced in sweat shops. THIS! Walm


Walmart threatened Costco a few years ago saying that their practices of paying more wages and giving better benefits to its workers was unlawful because Costco wasn't maximizing it's stockholder profits.

This because Costco is kicking Walmart's ass, per capita.

All you need to know:

Boo hoo Walmart. Go fuck yourselfs.

Since you have not stepped

Since you have not stepped foot into a Wal-mart in so long, you may not realise that Costco's prices are significantly higher, prohibitively so if you are part of the lowest 10 percent. Many people would prefer to shop in other stores but the ability to buy more food for the same $$ can be the difference between just enough and being hungry.

Be thankful you can do protest shopping.

So what would happen if

So what would happen if everyone who can afford to shop somewhere else did so? Is there any way to make that happen?

If Sam Walton were still

If Sam Walton were still alive none of this would be happening. It would be "Made in the USA" and an honest wage. It's his kids that F@#$%d everything up! No doubt old Sam been rollin' in his grave for decades.

Doesn't that mean Walmart is

Doesn't that mean Walmart is one of the 47% that is mooching off the taxpayers if their full-time staff can't feed and house their families without help from us?

I would call it externalizing

I would call it externalizing the costs to the public sector. Walmart and other Romney suckers are good at passing the buck to the middle class.

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