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Let’s Call It Wal-Mart’s ‘Black Eye Friday’

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Posted on Nov 22, 2013
Walmart Corporate (CC BY 2.0)

Just days after federal labor officials lowered the boom on Wal-Mart over its anti-union practices, labor activists are planning protests outside some 1,500 Wal-Marts on Black Friday, the nation’s annual orgy of greed on the day after Thanksgiving, to draw attention to the retail giant’s abysmal labor policies.

You’ll recall a couple of days ago one Wal-Mart store passed the hat among its employees to donate food to, in essence, help themselves, since Wal-Mart’s wage structure forces tens of thousands of its workers to rely on food stamps and other government subsidies to make ends meet (yes, your tax dollars are helping Wal-Mart maintain its draconian labor policies).

Less noted was a decision by the National Labor Relations Board on Monday faulting Wal-Mart for retaliatory actions against employees who were engaged in labor organizing activities earlier this year, including a series of walkouts protesting pay and working conditions. As The Nation reported:

Walmart’s 1.3 million workers won a big victory Monday when the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the retail giant had broken the law by firing and harassing employees who spoke out—and in some cases went on strike—to protest the company’s poverty pay and abusive labor practices.

The federal agency will prosecute Walmart’s illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June as part of a growing movement of company employees. The ruling is likely to accelerate the burgeoning protest movement among Walmart employees, upset with low pay, stingy benefits, arbitrary work schedules and part-time jobs.

Over the past year, protests against the world’s largest private employer have escalated, led by OUR Walmart, a nationwide network of Walmart workers. Last fall, the group announced that it would hold rallies outside Walmart stores in dozens of cities on the day after Thanksgiving—the busiest shopping day of the year, typically called Black Friday. In response, Walmart executives threatened disciplinary action against workers who participated in rallies and strikes, even though they are perfectly legal. Speaking on national television, Walmart spokesperson David Tovar threatened workers, saying that “there could be consequences” for employees who did not come to work for scheduled shifts on Black Friday. Despite the threats, several hundred Wal-Mart workers joined tens of thousands of supporters at the Black Friday protests around the country.

Well, Wal-Mart gets to try it again this Friday. As Salon reports:

Strikes against Wal-Mart have anchored and amplified a comprehensive campaign targeting the company’s brand and ambitions, which received a major media boost this week with the report that an Ohio Wal-Mart took up an employee-to-employee charity collection to help workers get a Thanksgiving meal.

According to OUR Walmart, the 1,500 Black Friday protests will include major demonstrations in over a dozen cities including Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. The campaign has said that last year’s Black Friday actions included tens of thousands of supporters and more than 400 striking Wal-Mart employees. Asked whether this year’s Black Friday will include strikes by a larger share of Wal-Mart’s 1.3 million employees, UFCW official and key OUR Walmart strategist Dan Schlademan told Salon that more announcements regarding strikes would be forthcoming. “The energy we’re seeing in support of Wal-Mart workers is growing,” said Schlademan, adding that strikes would take place “throughout the week of Black Friday, but we’ll make those announcements closer to that point.”

Remember, in a consumer society, a dollar spent is a vote so pick your retail outlets wisely.

—Posted by Scott Martelle.

 

 

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