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Walmart Workers And Activists Planning Black Friday Protests

In what is becoming a tradition, Walmart workers and labor activists are planning protests for Black Friday. This will be the third time in a row that Black Friday protests have drawn attention to Walmart’s poor treatment of its workers. Black Friday is generally considered to be one of the most important shopping days of the year and one where special deals draw shoppers in large numbers to retail outlets such as Walmart.

Though Walmart has successfully fought efforts by workers to unionize there are labor organizations advocating on behalf of workers. The first Black Friday protest was organized by the Organization for United Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) which at that time demanded each employee receive a salary of at least $25,000 a year. Now OUR Walmart has partnered with other labor organizations and joined efforts to fight for a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Workers affiliated with OUR Walmart claim the retailer pays so little that some employees don’t even have the means to feed their families. The campaign has also filed legal complaints accusing Walmart of illegally retaliating against strikers, sometimes by firing them.

As with OUR Walmart’s first major action in 2012, this year’s Black Friday protests will not be a typical strike. Many of those picketing Walmart — perhaps even most — will be outside supporters of the OUR Walmart campaign, not store employees themselves. Those employees who do walk off the job will likely do so for just one day. Yet OUR Walmart has said that their prior work stoppages are legally protected strikes, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has agreed. Strikes over wages and working conditions, or over an alleged ULP (unfair labor practice), such as illegally retaliating against workers, are protected by federal law.

Walmart is America’s largest employer and one of the most profitable companies in the world yet it often pays its employees so poorly that they are forced to use public assistance. Therefore Walmart is externalizing its costs onto society which paints a phony picture of profitability. How profitable could Walmart be if it actually paid its workers a decent wage?

Keeping costs low has allowed Walmart to hollow out local and businesses by lowering prices, but local workers have become unemployed or forced to work for less pay at Walmart. Previously Walmart’s public relations team argued that Americans cared more about lower prices than higher wages but that may be changing due to the results of the destruction of large amounts of middle class wealth thanks to the housing bubble and resulting financial crisis. Americans may start caring more about getting paid higher wages now that wages are all they have or make up more and more of their income and wealth.

OUR Walmart and supporters are counting on it as they prepare to launch demonstrations at Walmarts across the country this Friday.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Walmart Workers And Activists Planning Black Friday Protests

In what is becoming a tradition, Walmart workers and labor activists are planning protests for Black Friday. This will be the third time in a row that Black Friday protests have drawn attention to Walmart’s poor treatment of its workers. Black Friday is generally considered to be one of the most important shopping days of the year and one where special deals draw shoppers in large numbers to retail outlets such as Walmart.

Though Walmart has successfully fought efforts by workers to unionize there are labor organizations advocating on behalf of workers. The first Black Friday protest was organized by the Organization for United Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) which at that time demanded each employee receive a salary of at least $25,000 a year. Now OUR Walmart has partnered with other labor organizations and joined efforts to fight for a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Workers affiliated with OUR Walmart claim the retailer pays so little that some employees don’t even have the means to feed their families. The campaign has also filed legal complaints accusing Walmart of illegally retaliating against strikers, sometimes by firing them.

As with OUR Walmart’s first major action in 2012, this year’s Black Friday protests will not be a typical strike. Many of those picketing Walmart — perhaps even most — will be outside supporters of the OUR Walmart campaign, not store employees themselves. Those employees who do walk off the job will likely do so for just one day. Yet OUR Walmart has said that their prior work stoppages are legally protected strikes, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has agreed. Strikes over wages and working conditions, or over an alleged ULP (unfair labor practice), such as illegally retaliating against workers, are protected by federal law.

Walmart is America’s largest employer and one of the most profitable companies in the world yet it often pays its employees so poorly that they are forced to use public assistance. Therefore Walmart is externalizing its costs onto society which paints a phony picture of profitability. How profitable could Walmart be if it actually paid its workers a decent wage?

Keeping costs low has allowed Walmart to hollow out local and businesses by lowering prices, but local workers have become unemployed or forced to work for less pay at Walmart. Previously Walmart’s public relations team argued that Americans cared more about lower prices than higher wages but that may be changing due to the results of the destruction of large amounts of middle class wealth thanks to the housing bubble and resulting financial crisis. Americans may start caring more about getting paid higher wages now that wages are all they have or make up more and more of their income and wealth.

OUR Walmart and supporters are counting on it as they prepare to launch demonstrations at Walmarts across the country this Friday.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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