Momentum Builds for Historic Walmart Strike

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This post originally appeared at Waging

are standing up to live better,” say Walmart’s retail workers, playfully
twisting Walmart’s slogan of “live better” into a rallying
for better conditions and treatment. In a taste of what the nation’s
largest retailer can expect on Black Friday, frustrated Walmart workers have
again started walking off their jobs to protest their employer’s attempts to
silence outspoken workers.

from both the retail and warehouse sectors of Walmart’s supply chain have
called for nation-wide protests, strikes and actions on, and leading up to,
next Friday — the busiest shopping day of the year. In the past week, wildcat
strikes in Dallas, Seattle and the Bay Area saw dozens of retail workers — from
multiple store — walk away from their shifts, suggesting that the Black Friday
threats are to be taken seriously.

Dan Schlademan, Director of the Making Change at Walmart campaign,
said in a nation-wide conference call organized for media on Thursday that
Walmart can expect more than 1,000 different protests, including strikes and
rallies at Walmart stores between now and Black Friday.

to organizers working with the Walmart retail workers’ association, OUR Walmart, stores around the country —
including, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Washington D.C. and
others — can expect workers to go on strike. Specific dates have not been
announced yet out of concern to minimize chances for Walmart to preemptively
silence workers’ voices.

are expecting a wide variety of activity — strikers right in front of their
stores, demonstrations, flash mobs, rallies and people working to educate
customers — I think it’s going to be a very creative day.” said Schlademan.
“Brave strikers are seeing a huge amount of support from community allies.”

Waging Nonviolence has previously reported,
the historic wildcat strikes are invigorating a new form of labor organizing of
non-union labor. By drawing on the support of community allies — particularly
from religious and student groups — workers are finding it increasingly easier
to resist their employer’s abuses.

addition to joining striking workers at rallies at Walmart stores, supporters
are able to donate
to Making Change at Walmart to help the striking low-wage workers make up lost
wages. In the form of food gift cards, the community support organization
Making Change at Walmart is providing concrete ways for others to be in
solidarity with Walmart’s workers. Thus far, $25,000 has been raised.

this kind of grassroots support pales in comparison to the revenue and capital
at Walmart’s disposal. Some Walmart executives are making upwards of $10
million a year while full-time retail workers struggle to make ends meet. Sara
Gilbert, a customer service manager at a Seattle Walmart, makes only $14,000 a
year to support her family.

work full time for one of the richest companies in the world and yet my
children are on state healthcare and we get subsidized housing,” said Gilbert
who joined other OUR Walmart associates in Seattle’s walkout on Thursday. Walmart posted
almost $16 billion in profits last year and recently announced changes to
employee healthcare premiums that could raise the cost for workers as much as
36 percent.

back in the struggle against Walmart are its warehouse workers. On November 14,
the Inland Empire, Calif.,
warehouse workers — who are privately contracted through the logistics company
NFI but move 100 percent Walmart goods — resumed their strike due to
retaliations against outspoken workers. The workers were part of the 15-day
in mid-September that re-ignited workers’ efforts to change
Walmart’s treatment of its employees.

Garcia, a warehouse worker from Southern California who took part in the first
strike, was recently terminated for speaking out against unsafe working conditions
and broken equipment. According to Elizabeth Brennan, an organizer with
Warehouse Workers United with whom the NFI workers are affiliated, about three
dozen workers have had their hours cut while others have been demoted and
suspended in retaliatory efforts from Walmart’s contractor to curb organizing

been tough,” said
Garcia. “My kids need food, school supplies and an apartment to sleep in at
night, but right now it is difficult to provide them these basic things.”

Thursday, six community supporters were arrested for blocking a major
thoroughfare to the Walmart-contracted warehouse. The two dozen striking
warehouse workers returned to work on November 16.

Inland Empire strike, which still demands an
end to unsafe working conditions, retaliatory practices and poor wages, comes
during a crucial time when much of Walmart’s supply chain is moving into high
gear. It remains unclear whether the strikes and walkouts will generate enough
pressure to force Walmart to systematically change how it treats its 1.4
million employees, but the Walmart workers movement seems to be spreading and

Action Network
is hosting online activism for supporters as well as
publicizing some of the events planned at Walmart stores for Black Friday.
While some activists for workers’ rights and just wages advocate boycotting
Walmart and shopping on Black Friday in general, Making Change at Walmart has
not called for boycotts but affirms all efforts that support workers’ rights to
assemble and speak out.

Fletcher, a Walmart employee in California
plans to go on strike to emphasize her message that Walmart is not listening to
its workers. Fletcher and her husband both have to work Thanksgiving Day for
Walmart and will miss spending the holiday with their two young children.
Complaints have alleged that Walmart’s scheduling practices have made it very
difficult for families to spend time with each other on holidays like Thanksgiving
when Walmart plans to open its doors to shoppers that evening. Fletcher wants
Walmart executives to know that Walmart’s employees are just as important as
its customers.

are going to make the ultimate sacrifice,” said Fletcher who is also a part of
OUR Walmart. “By going on strike on the busiest shopping day of the year, we
hope to send a message out to Walmart that we are not a small percentage of
workers who are struggling and that we mean business.”

Image by Walmart Corporate, licensed under Creative Commons.   

And check out this video from OUR Walmart, “Why Are We Standing Up to Live Better?”

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