You may be waiting in that line longer than usual if you’re shopping at Walmart next Friday.
According to The Huffington Post:
Organizers are planning a nationwide strike against Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, and are banking on a new strategy: online organizing.
Labor organizers are working with social action nonprofit Engage Network as well as corporate watchdog nonprofit Corporate Action Network to pull off what they are calling a “viral” — meaning national and spreading online — strike.
Brian Young, cofounder of the Corporate Action Network, said on a conference call coordinated by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union Thursday, that organizers cannot cover the roughly 4,000 Walmarts across the country, but enabling self-appointed leaders online has widened and decentralized the campaign.
The campaign is also mobilizing strikers and supporters through a Facebook app, multiple Facebook pages, a Tumblr and Twitter with the hashtag #walmartstrikers.
The outreach leading up to Black Friday follows a series of unprecedented actions taken by Walmart workers against their employer and working conditions. In October, for the first time in the company’s 50-year history, more than 70 workers at multiple Los Angeles-area Walmart stores walked off the job, even though their jobs are not protected by an official union. The strike had a ripple effect, causing strikes in 12 other cities, in large part through online organizing.
The success of these strikes, as well as one over the summer touted as the largest ever protest against the company, and a six-day pilgrimmage of warehouse workers in September, would not have been possible without Facebook, Twitter and other web sites, Young said.
“Making Change at Walmart,” which organized the demonstrations and is a campaign affiliated with the UFCW union, has over 25,000 supporters on Facebook.
Corey Parker, a Walmart worker from Mississippi, said on the conference call that he became active with OUR Walmart after finding out about it through a HuffPost article on Facebook. Now, he has mobilized workers at his store to strike on Black Friday because, he said, he realized that “not being able to make a living was not just an issue at my store.”
Adding fuel to movement, Walmart announced Thursday that it will kick off its Black Friday sale at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, its earliest start ever.
“Lots and lots of Walmart workers are going to be forced to not have Thanksgiving because they’re going to be preparing all day for the busiest shopping day of the year,” Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart, said on the conference call. “This essentially cancels Thanksgiving for hundreds of thousands of workers.”
“It’s not like Walmart is financially hurting. It’s not like they’re not making unbelievable sums of money. The price of this is really decimating an important family day in our country.”
But Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo said of the sale, “Last year, our highest customer traffic was during the 10 p.m. hour and, according to the National Retail Federation, Thanksgiving night shopping has surged over the past three years.”
“Most of our stores are open 24 hours and, historically, much of our Black Friday preparations have been done on Thanksgiving, which is not unusual in the retail industry,” he said, adding that the strikes planned for Black Friday, will not “have any impact on our business.”
Regarding the action over the last few months, Restivo said, “While the opinions expressed by this group don’t represent the views of the vast majority of more than 1.3 million Walmart associates in the U.S., when our associates bring forward concerns, we listen.”
In September, dozens of Walmart-contracted warehouse workers in Southern California’s Inland Empire walked off the job and went on a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage to protest working conditions and retaliation for speaking up.
More than a month later, the warehouse company NFI responded to some of the strikers’ working condition requests. “Just in the last week, we’ve seen the warehouse operators scrambling to replace broken and unsafe equipment, they’ve rented fans to increase ventilation, and they’ve added more water coolers,” Elizabeth Brennan, communications director for Warehouse Workers United, said on the conference call.
However, the strikers who returned to work have continued to face retaliation, many times getting their hours cut from 35 down to eight, she said. Some of these warehouse workers will join striking Walmart workers on Black Friday, Brennan said.
Do you support the strike??
Images via tumblr