Labor, Environmental, Religious, Women’s & Immigrants’ Rights and Community
Organizations Join Growing Number of Protests
(WASHINGTON) – Leaders of local, state and national groups representing tens of millions of Americans pledged to join Walmart workers demanding change at the country’s largest retailer and employer on Black Friday. Amid growing protests and strikes at stores across the country, national leaders say the day will mark one of the largest mobilizations of working families in U.S. history, surpassing last year when more than 30,000 workers and supporters protested against the mega-retailer.
During the call, OUR Walmart member Tiffany Beroid announced breaking news from the National Labor Relations Board. Today, the Board’s General Counsel is issuing a decision to prosecute Walmart for its widespread violations of its workers’ rights. The decision will provide additional protection for Walmart’s 1.3 million employees when they are speaking out for better jobs at the country’s largest employer. The Board will prosecute Walmart’s illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June, according to the decision.
Individuals and organizations announcing their support for Walmart workers represent millions of Americans from every corner of the country, including members of Congress such as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA); policy experts and academics such as Demos, the National Employment Law Project and the Economic Policy Institute; women’s groups such as the National Organization for Women and Family Values @ Work; and environmental and consumer protection organizations such as The Sierra Club, the National Consumers League andFood and Water Watch.
“The scale of support and nationwide activity being planned for Black Friday is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. Black Friday is becoming a labor day of action for working families,” said Peter Dreier, Distinguished Professor of Politics, and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College and author of The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. “As income inequality climbs to historic levels and families are increasingly pushed to the margins, working families are coming together to demand better. This year, the day after Thanksgiving will be remembered not as the biggest shopping day of the year, but as the day Americans took action to demand the country’s largest employer pay workers livable wages and play a part in improving our economy.”
“The fight for better pay, full time work and an end to illegal retaliation at Walmart isn’t just a workers’ issue,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the country, representing more than 12 million Americans. “It’s a family and women’s issue, an immigrant rights issue, a student issue, an environmental issue and a consumer issue. Above all, it’s an issue of fairness. I’m proud to say that the AFL-CIO has committed the full weight of the labor movement to support these brave, determined Walmart workers who are calling for change for all of us. Black Friday is just the next step in efforts to stand together and demand Walmart makes the right choice. And until they do, the more than 12 millionmembers of the AFL-CIO will stand in lockstep with the Walmart workers alongtheir path to justice.”
The announcement came as a growing number of voices in business and the media denounce Walmart for its unsustainable business model. Last week, a Bloomberg columnist called the company the true “welfare queen,” noting that Walmart is the largest consumer of taxpayer-supported aid. AFortune article pointed to investors wanting change – Walmart could easily raise wages by 50% without affecting its stock value. Following third quarter revenues that fell short of expectations, Forbes added that shoppers, shareholders and the retail Giant have reason to worry. And the New York Times argued that Walmart employees deserve both raises and to have the federal government behind them.
“Our more than 8 million members stand in solidarity with Walmart workers for a very simple reason: hardworking people deserve to be able to get by,” said Anna Galland, executive director ofMoveOn.org Civic Action. “But as people across the nation learn about Walmart’s poverty wages, dangerous working conditions and illegal retaliation, outrage is growing. Our members will be out in full force on Black Friday.”
“Walmart workers deserve respect, dignity and fair wages,” said Kim Bobo, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice. “This is a moral issue that Walmart can easily afford to address, but they have refused. And as we enter a season of giving, members of every faith will join the thousands of people on Black Friday calling on Walmart to give workers what they deserve: a minimum of $25,000 a year for full-time work and the freedom to speak out without retaliation. It’s time for Walmart to make a change – and we won’t slow down until they do.”
In addition to strikes and protests, Walmart workers are organizing online and conducting outreach in neighborhoods across the country ahead of Black Friday. Chicago worker Charmaine Givens-Thomas recently launched an online petition asking President Obama to meet withworkers who’ve been calling for change at Walmart. Earlier this month, workers unveiled an online portal,www.associatevoices.org, which allows associates to step forward and ask customers and community members to support them by holding Black Friday events at their stores. In less than a week after beginning to promote the site, more than 170 cities have requested a Black Friday rally.
“The sheer size and scope of protests on Black Friday reflects the country’s reaction to Walmart’s treatment of its workers and illegal retaliation against those who speak out,” said Joseph Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. “Workers are standing up as never before, emboldened by a broad coalition of allies and supporters, to send a clear message to Walmart that they won’t be silenced.”
This year’s Black Friday will be even larger than 2012, when 30,000 workers and supporters participated in strikes and protests. Since then, calls for change at the country’s largest retailer and employer have intensified, putting Walmart on the defensive. Citing low wages, manipulative scheduling, understaffing and unsafe working conditions, members of Congress, economic and policy experts, environmentalists, shareholders and financial analysts are pointing to practices that Walmart must end to improve jobs, strengthen the economy — and boost the company’s bottom line.
“Students across the country are joining this unprecedented mobilization because we reject the Walmart model of low-wage,part-time and unstable employment,” said Leewana Thomas of United Students Against Sweatshops. “These jobs used to pay a living wage. Now, they’re all that’s available, and they don’t pay enough to support repaying student loans, much less raising children and providing for a family.”
Emboldened by CEO disclosures that as many as 825,000 Walmart associates are paid less than $25,000 a year, workers across the country have gone on strike in recent weeks, no longer willing to wait to demand an end to illegal retaliation. In Los Angeles, workers went on a two-day strike that culminated in the largest-ever act of civil disobedience against Walmart, and last week, workers in Seattleand Chicago joined them in walking off their jobs.
“With more than $17 billion in profits, Walmart can – and should – pay its workers a minimum wage of $25,000,” said Linda Meric, executive director of 9to5. “Working families need the security of knowing that full-time work won’t relegate them to poverty, and our economy needs families who have that financial security. Black Friday isn’t just the largest shopping day of the year; it’s a chance to show the strength of the movement towards building an economy that values hard work.
Leading up to Black Friday 2012, Walmart and managers escalated their efforts to threaten and discourage workers from going on legally protected strikes. David Tovar, spokesperson for the company, even went so far as to threaten workers on national television, saying “there would be consequences” for workers who did not come in for scheduled shifts on Black Friday. This year, Walmart will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, forcing many employees to work through the holiday night.
“Black Friday’s protests are yet another sign of the courage of these workers, especially in light of Walmart’s record of illegal retaliation and climate of fear they have created,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization. “Their bravery is the reason so many are rallying behind them in one of the largest mobilizations in recent memory. They’re fighting for all of us.”