The wildcat strikes by non-union Walmart associates are approaching a critical mass. The first-ever strikes have now spread to 12 cities across the country – including Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Orlando, Seattle, and various locations in California – with workers joined by labor and community activists. Protests have been held in front of 200 Walmart stores in the US. Another 100 workers traveled to corporate HQ in Bentonville, Arkansas, to protest the retaliatory measures taken against workers who advocate for higher pay and better working conditions.
Mr. Schlademan, director of the union-backed Making Change at Walmart campaign, added that more than 200 employees were traveling to Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to stage a protest on Wednesday during the company’s annual meeting with financial analysts.
He warned that disgruntled Wal-Mart employees, joined by labor unions and community groups, might stage a combined protest and educational campaign the Friday after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.
Obviously these are small numbers compared to the 1.4 million Walmart employees nationwide. We’re talking about hundreds of workers walking off the job, a tiny fraction. But this is of course just the beginning of the labor actions. There are actions at 200 Walmart stores today. If that grows, and thousands of stores see employees “reclaim” Black Friday for workers, as the campaign says they will, that could get the attention of the executive suites.
“Walmart’s efforts to try to silence us is only building support among our co-workers in calling for changes at the store,” said Colby Harris, a Walmart employee in Lancaster, Texas, making $8.90 an hour. “We will not be silenced, especially on Black Friday when Walmart wants us to cut short the holiday with our families to help the company profit. If Walmart wants workers fully committed to the stores on Black Friday, Walmart needs to do more for us the rest of the days of the year.” The actions will not necessarily take the form of strikes, but “rallies, flash mobs, direct action and other efforts to inform customers about the illegal actions that Walmart has been taking against its workers,” according to the organizers.
Leaders from groups like the National Consumers League, the National Organization for Women, labor organizations and more endorsed the proposed Black Friday efforts.
A spokesman for Walmart described their jobs as “some of the best jobs in retail,” with an average wage of $12.54 an hour. But the spokesman would not specify how many associates get full-time hours. The company, meanwhile, made $16 billion in profits last year, executives netted $10 million in compensation, and the Walton family is the richest in the country, accumulating as much wealth as the lower 42% of American households, combined.
Anyone who thinks that Walmart will change their labor practices without a major struggle is kidding themselves. OUR Walmart has a huge task in front of them. It’s entirely possible they won’t succeed. And yet, maybe a fire will spread.