Hundreds of Walmart workers and community allies across major US cities took to the streets on Black Friday to protest the multibillion-dollar corporation for poor working conditions, unfair labor practices and wages so low the retailer held a food drive for its own employees this Thanksgiving.
The nationwide campaign under the umbrella of Organization United for Respect (OUR Walmart), supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers, held protests in major cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Dallas and Seattle. It was part of a growing movement of increasingly organized and mobilized low-wage workers that include retail, fast food and restaurant workers.
“I’m out here to show the workers not to fear retaliation, because it’s our right to be able to organize and protest what Walmart is doing to its associates,” said Richard Mendoza, an employee at Walmart’s Duarte store in Los Angeles County. “The more times they get away with it, the bigger the problem is going to be.”
As in the past, with consumers often stampeding and fighting for marked-down products, this year’s Black Friday sales were marred by violence that has been deadly for low-paid workers who operate the stores so their employer can make billions in profits on Black Friday. Mendoza said he had to start work at 5:30 PM on Thanksgiving to accommodate a new practice whereby retailers push Black Friday well into the holiday.
In 2008, 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour, a Long Island, New York, Walmart employee, was killed on Black Friday when shoppers stampeded through doors and trampled him to death. Walmart was fined only $7,000 for this tragedy – but to date has not paid.
Beyond Black Friday, public advocacy for low-wage workers is gaining steam. But the heightened push has raised questions: What is being advocated for? Is it specific rights and protections? A minimum wage? Increased unionization? Or is the goal a sea change in the way the economy operates – a larger shift toward real democracy?
Continue reading Low-Wage Workers’ Movement Catches Fire [Truthout]