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Activist Protest Walmart on Black Friday For Better Wages (Somersworth, NH)

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On Friday November 29th millions of Americans went out well before dawn to try to save a few dollars on that hot new toy.  The annual event now known as ‘Black Friday,’ is the biggest annual revenue draw for retailers.  However not everyone who was out on Black Friday was out to shop.

Millions of low wage retail workers were forced to give up their holiday celebrations to go into work Thanksgiving night and work straight through the Black Friday madness.

Walmart the nations largest private employer has been leading the race to the bottom by paying most of the their workers just above minimum wage.  Walmart also does not guarantee that employees will get a full 40-hour workweek either.  These actions by Walmart’s corporate executives have fueled the union organizing efforts of OUR-Walmart.

Organization United for Respect (OUR-Walmart) is a grassroots coalition of workers and union organizers who are trying to help workers find their voice and speak out against their employer.  OUR-Walmart made national news on Black Friday last year when they held their first worker’s strikes.  The turn out was not as big as they hoped for but they made their point.

This year OUR-Walmart’s Black Friday protests were much bigger.  Thousands of protests were held nation wide.  Some were massive like the ones in White Plains New York where hundreds of people gathered to protest.  Others were small like the one in Somersworth New Hampshire where about twenty protesters showed up at the Walmart Supercenter.

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Image courtesy of Occupy Seacoast NH

In a recent interview, David Holt, a member of Occupy Seacoast NH, which organized the Somersworth protest, told me:

We came out to support Walmart workers who are not paid a living wage. We were also protesting Walmart as the poster child for corporate America, driving for profits for the wealthy in America despite the damage it is doing to hardworking Americans, the economy, and the planet.” 

While the group was small they were very diverse. “Attendees included members of the Occupy Seacoast NH group, UNH students who are part of the UNH Peace and Justice League, members of various unions, as well as several concerned citizens,” Holt explained.

David is not a Walmart employee, so I asked David why he chose to take part protesting Walmart?

“Just look at the news,” Holt said. “One Walmart store had a food drive for it’s own employees, they are also currently under investigation for bribery in Mexico, and have been tied in the past to a factory catastrophe in Bangladesh. The list of reasons to protest Walmart is almost limitless, they have caused countless small business to close including smaller chains and their sourcing practices are causing environmental damage all over the world.”

Workers deserve dignity and respect no matter where they work.  Walmart does not respect their workers.  They pay them the absolute minimum, provide no benefits, and do their best to avoid allowing workers to be ‘full time’.    I was very glad to see all of the news coverage and people who took a stand for workers on Black Friday, instead of feeding the corporate greed.

The ‘War On Thanksgiving’ Has Already Begun; Retailers Have Stolen Thanksgiving

The holiday season is about to begin. On Wednesday at sundown Hanukkah begins (Hanukkah Sameach). Then on Thursday the Black Friday sales begin!  Did I miss something? Oh that’s right, Thursday is also Thanksgiving Day.  Or at least it used to be. The events of Black Friday are quickly taking over Thanksgiving and soon there will be nothing left.

Sarah Palin says there is a ‘War on Christmas’.  She is wrong; the ‘war’ is on Thanksgiving and the American worker.  The difference is that Black Friday is ‘free-market capitalism’ in action, so that makes it suitable in their book.

I would expect this trend to continue and next year Walmart, and other terrible retailers, will be opening at 12pm (noon) on Thanksgiving.  If we do not do something to stop these greedy retailers from opening earlier and earlier, it will not be long before they do not even bother to close for Thanksgiving.

This year millions of workers are being forced to work on Thanksgiving to feed the greed of their corporate owners.  This action absolutely disgusts me.  There are some jobs like police, fire, doctors, nurses, and emergency staff that works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, holidays included.  These jobs are necessary for public safety and are usually paid a hefty bonus for working the holiday.  These are not the people I am complaining about.

I am disgusted at the retail stores who continue to steal the Thanksgiving holiday from their employees.  Last year stores opened at Midnight on Friday morning, or 10pm on Thursday night.  Now stores are opening at 6 or 7 pm.  Utterly disgusting!

Forced to work on Thanksgiving, for what, $7.25 an hour.  Walmart makes $25 billion dollars in profits every year and yet workers are living in poverty due to low wages.

Recently MIT created the living wage calculator.  The living wage calculator is chart that shows how much you would have to earn to have a ‘living wage’.

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Living Wage Calculator Southern NH

As you can see in New Hampshire a single person would need to make a little more than $10 an hour to meet the living wage standard.  The numbers go up dramatically when you start to include children in the mix.  A single parent with two children would need to make almost $30.00 to meet the living wage standards.

This year thousands of Walmart workers will be walking out on Black Friday.  They are trying to make national attention to the low-wages that Walmart is paying.  They are striking for a living wage.  The organizers of the group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) is asking for a few simple things.

  • Respect workers as individuals.
  • Schedule workers for full time- 40 hours a week- positions.
  • Pay workers a living wage, $25,000 per year (full time work) or $13 per hour.
  • Expand their healthcare options to make it affordable to workers.
  • End the retaliation against workers who speak up about problems.

Click here to find a Black Friday protest near you.

This year (and every year) I vow not to shop at Walmart until they begin to give their workers respect and start paying works a living wage.  I know I am only one man, and my family will not make a difference in the billions of dollars in revenue that Walmart brings in.   That is not going to stop me.  The more of us that take a stand against Walmart and their evil greedy mentality we will start to make a difference.

We are already making a difference. Since last year’s strikes, Walmart has lost 2% in overall sales. We need to keep the pressure on Walmart to show them we value the workers more than their low-priced Chinese crap.

(Please take a moment to read and sign OUR Walmart’s declaration for respect.)

Related posts: The Outrageous Truth About A $12 Minimum Wage And Your Grocery Bill

The Retail Theft Of Thanksgiving

First let me start by saying Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of your family. I hope you enjoy the holiday and the time you get to spend together.

I would also like to take a moment to thank the men and women who do not get Thanksgiving or most holidays off.  These dedicated men and women work every hour or every day. Many of these people work in ‘safety-related’ fields.  They are your local Police and Fire departments.  They are there whenever you call.  They are the doctors, nurses, and staff at your local hospitals.  They are there when you twist your ankle playing football after Thanksgiving dinner.

There are many others, like pilots and other airline industry workers. Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest travel time of the year. Millions of people fly home to be with families, and members of my union – the National Air Traffic Controllers Association – help to make sure you get there safely.

These union members in safety-related jobs are not the only people who have to give up their holidays to fulfill their duties.  For example, the IBEW members at PSNH who are working or on-call. Or the State Employees (SEA/SEIU1984) who are working the toll booths throughout New Hampshire. I could go on, but I think you get my point.

Millions of people have to work on holidays; unfortunately, that number is going up every year.  This year, that number is going up dramatically.  This is largely in part to the stealing of the Thanksgiving holiday by the retail industry.

As long as I can remember, the day after Thanksgiving was always a special day for shoppers.  People would read the newspaper to see all the specials. They would get up at un-godly hours and stand in lines to be the first in line for that ‘doorbuster’ deal.  Over the last few years that has all changed, and I think it is appalling.

This year, all the major retailers are opening earlier than ever to beat out their competitors.  Best Buy and the Simon Malls are opening at midnight on Friday morning.  The new Merrimack Premium Outlets are opening at 10pm on Thanksgiving Day.  Target, Sears, and Toy R Us will be opening at 8pm on Thanksgiving Day.

This is why I am saying that the retail market is stealing Thanksgiving.

The worst of all is Walmart.

Walmart alone employs 1.4 million people in the U.S.  Around the country, most Walmarts will open at 8pm on Thanksgiving.  But other Walmarts will be open all day.

For instance, the Bedford Walmart is going to be open at 7am, just like any other Thursday.  Except Thanksgiving is not a normal day. This is a special day. This is a day to spend with friends and family enjoying good food and fellowship.  This is not a day to be forced into work at a retail store so the corporation can make extra money on ‘Black Thursday’.

Mary Pat Tifft a Walmart associate and organizer for OUR Walmart stated

“This Thanksgiving, while millions of families plan to spend quality time with their loved ones, many Walmart workers have been told we will be stocking shelves and preparing for doors to open at 8pm on Thanksgiving night.

My son is coming home from Afghanistan for the holiday, and I would be devastated if I had been scheduled to work. I see the disappointment in the eyes of my co-workers, especially those with young kids, that aren’t going to be able to share the holiday with their families.”

How many of these people are getting ‘Holiday Pay’ or extra pay for giving up their holiday to work? I would guess very few, if any, will – considering that Walmart does not even give the majority of their employees health benefits.

How many of these minimum wage workers would volunteer to work Thanksgiving, if they weren’t required to work?  What is next, opening at 9am on Christmas Day to start the after-Christmas sales?  If this Thanksgiving Day trend continues, what will stop the largest single employer in the U.S. from stealing Christmas, too?

I will do my part to stop this trend, by not shopping on Thanksgiving Day.  I will also be boycotting Walmart this Friday as well, in honor of the OUR Walmart workers who are planning a walkout strike on Black Friday.

Please pledge to ‘Stand With Walmart Strikers‘ and make this Thanksgiving one that Walmart, and all the other retailers, will never forget.

Information about OUR WALMART

OUR Walmart, the associate-led organization that aims to ensure every Walmart employee is treated with respect, raise employee working standards, and improve customer service at Walmart stores nationwide.

 

Stand Up Live Better! Wal-Mart Workers Speak Out For Respect

Through out the labor community Wal-Mart is well known as one of the worst employers in the country.  They treat their employees like dirt, they pay them even less, and do even ask for healthcare.  Well now they are standing up to live better.

Together with the help of Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart (OUR), workers are starting to make their voice known.  As some in the labor movement have said, one voice can be heard, but 10,000 voices cannot be ignored.  Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart  recently delivered a ‘Declaration of Respect‘ to the home office (Video) in Arkansas which included:

  • Listen to us, the Associates
  • Have respect for the individual
  • Recognize freedom of association and freedom of speech
  • Fix the Open Door policy
  • Pay a minimum of $13/hour and make full-time jobs available for Associates who want them
  • Create dependable, predictable work schedules
  • Provide affordable healthcare
  • Provide every Associate with a policy manual, ensure equal enforcement of policy and no discrimination, and give every Associate equal opportunity to succeed and advance in his or her career
  • Provide wages and benefits that ensure that no Associate has to rely on government assistance.

These are not outrageous claims. These workers want to be treated with the respect and dignity that every worker deserves.  They want to be paid a living wage not minimum wage.  They want to be able afford to eat and pay their rent. They want they option to get affordable healthcare.

This declaration is only the beginning.  Wal-Mart associates in Richmond Virginia staged a ‘sit in’ prior to walking off the job. “We will not be silenced by Walmart for standing up for respect and against harassment, intimidation and retaliation,” said Mario Hammod, a worker at the Richmond Walmart.

This comes just weeks after Walmart workers walked off the job in more than a dozen states. At the same time, workers went on strike at Walmart’s largest distribution center outside of Chicago, IL and were joined by hundreds of clergy and community supporters, some of who were arrested by riot police during the peaceful protest. And earlier this fall, workers in Walmart-controlled warehouses in Southern California went on a 15-day strike that included a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage for safe jobs.

 

 

Now that you have seen their story you can help take part in their action.  They are planning a nation wide strike of Wal-Mart workers on Black Friday. Yes the largest shopping day of the year, BLACK FRIDAY.

We need your help to spread the word.  Share this post with your friends, your family, your kids teachers, and coaches.  Make them understand what Wal-Mart is doing to their associates.  Then stand in solidarity with Wal-Mart Workers by boycotting Wal-Mart on Black Friday.  Let them know you and all your friends won’t shop at a place that does not respect their associates.

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