On Black Friday, shoppers looking for holiday bargains weren’t the only ones at Walmart. Walmart workers and supporters rallied in 1,000 protests across 46 states. The actions had two goals: educating shoppers about the abysmal working conditions in Wal-Mart stores and suppliers; and showing strong solidarity to prevent Walmart bosses from retaliating against participating workers.
Partnership affiliates were leaders in a number of Black Friday actions. The Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) organized a series of actions at a Walmart in Secaucus, New Jersey. On Thanksgiving eve, they brought homemade cookies to Walmart workers in the store, acknowledging the hardship that Walmart brought to their families by opening on Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, ALIGN organized supporters to pass out leaflets that looked like Walmart sales promotions, alerting shoppers to Walmart’s low road employment practices. Later in the day, ALIGN brought two busloads of community activists to the Secaucus store, including 99% pickets from Occupy Wall Street. The Retail Action Project joined the Secaucus rally with a message of solidarity for all retail workers who had to work on Thanksgiving. Check out their “Deck the Aisles with Living Wages” flash mob.
The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy organized supporters to tell Walmart that things must change. They were part of a rally of more than 1,000 people who blocked traffic going into a Walmart store in Paramount, California. Nine protestors were arrested, including three Wal-Mart employees and four members of the clergy.
LAANE encouraged supporters to participate, saying, “Walmart must understand that its treatment of employees is not just a labor issue, but an abrogation of responsibility that has broad, unacceptable impacts on our society. Just as importantly, Walmart workers must know that we are behind them.”
One shopper leaving the Paramount store with his girlfriend said that the protest might deter him from shopping at Walmart again. "We need to put ourselves in their shoes. I probably won't shop here; I don't think they should take advantage of workers," said Joe Tegue, a 30-year-old contractor.
A few miles inland from Los Angeles, Warehouse Workers United has been organizing for several years in warehouses that contract with Walmart. A group of workers went on a two-day strike the week before Black Friday, and supported the Walmart associates in Paramount, CA in their strike. The strikes gained significant press attention from English and Spanish language news sources.
FRESC has been educating Denver residents about the folly of public subsidies for a proposed Walmart. In a letter to the editor, FRESC Executive Director Kevin Abels said, “Denver taxpayers have already subsidized Walmart-related developments three times, including $4.84 million in tax incremental financing for Sam’s Club at Broadway Marketplace. Our tax dollars should help businesses that create good jobs for residents and that enhance our local economy.”
In Richmond, CA, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) also joined a local action. The influence of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers was alive and well that day with the crowd repeatedly chanting “Si se puede!”, and carrying signs that demanded “HUELGA”. The Brass Liberation Orchestra accompanied the chanters with raucous blaring of brass and persistent pattering of snare drums and cymbals.
Mario, a former overnight worker at Walmart who had been recently fired, told the crowd: “We’re tired of retaliation, we’re tired of disrespect, we’re tired of being treated unfairly, when it’s time to speak out it’s time to speak out, so they’re going to hear us more and more.”
Another worker who walked off the job on Black Friday added: “Walmart promises low prices, but, you know, that low price comes at a cost. We ain’t makin’ anything. And taxpayers have to foot the bill, and it’s unacceptable… We’re going to draw from your strength—this is one Black Friday but this is going to continue to happen until Walmart wakes up.”
Other community leaders, union presidents, government representatives, and faith leaders stood up and gave testimony, including Congressman George Miller (D-CA), author of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012.
Watch a full video of all of the Black Friday testimonies at the Richmond Walmart.
Puget Sound Sage staff supported Walmart workers at a series of actions in Seattle. On November 15 and on Black Friday, Sage rallied together with community organizations that were there to stand with the Walmart workers. Workers shared their stories and chanted for change.