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.
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.