Bolder Advocacy

Black Friday Protests at Wal-Mart

This Friday, the nation’s biggest shopping day, thousands of Americans will be calling on Wal-Mart to improve working conditions at its stores and warehouses. The Black Friday day of action is the culmination of a wave of worker activism that started in October with an historic walkout in Los Angeles.

As the recent recession accelerated the growth of the part-time economy, the opposition to Wal-Mart’s practices takes on renewed relevance. Wal-Mart sets an industry standard by creating part-time positions with low wages, unaffordable benefits, erratic scheduling, and unsafe workplaces.

Erica Smiley of Jobs with Justice, a member organization of the Making Change at Wal-Mart campaign, explains why the fight to stop the erosion in labor standards starts with Wal-Mart:

“As the largest private sector employer in the world, Wal-Mart has enormous power to set the trends not just for the retail, food and logistics industries, but for the economy as a whole.”

What’s innovative about the Black Friday campaign is the multitude of ways people can support the Wal-Mart associates who are walking off the job. Here’s how community allies — people who wish to stand in solidarity with the workers — can get involved:

Organizers with OURWalmart say they have 1,000 events planned this week. The campaign has been gaining momentum across social media platforms: the organization’s Facebook page now has more than 28,000 ‘likes’ and its accompanying YouTube video has been watched over 103,000 times. The organizers have also collected more than $50,000 in online donations to sponsor workers who walk out.

It goes without saying that Wal-Mart workers put themselves and their families at risk by striking. The notoriously anti-union corporation has a history of retaliating against workers who take a stand for better treatment. This can include rearranging schedules, cutting hours, and even firing people who speak out. Wal-Mart has already filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board regarding Friday’s protests. OURWalMart, the organization for Wal-Mart associates, has responded by filing its own charge with the NLRB. In a statement, Mary Pat Tifft, an OUR Walmart member and 24-year Walmart associate from Kenosha, WI, responded:

“Walmart’s attempt to shut down our protests is one more example of the company’s efforts to silence any opposition that they face.  We will continue to speak out because there are real problems at Walmart that need to be addressed.”