With Black Friday just around the corner, Walmart workers have already started the groundwork for yet another strike at a Walmart near you. November 29 is this years Black Friday and store associates have planned another day of disruption and stoppages for the company. Walmart is not alone in the fight for fair wages. Other retail chains have joined the fight, including Target, Best Buy and Macy’s.
It appears that Walmart, along with a few other retail store chains, will be starting their Black Friday Sales early. The store announced on Tuesday that two major sales events will take place a day early on Thursday at 6 p.m. and later at 8 p.m. Whether this is an attempt to circumvent any stoppages by store associates on Friday is not clear.
Walmart, along with other stores, also opened early last year in their attempt to garner more customers for their Black Friday sales. Workers for the chain also protested against Walmart last year. The store’s associates went on strike, held protests and were arrested for their fight for decent wages. A lot of people who participated in 2012 Black Friday strikes were, according to the strikers, illegally.
The decision did not come lightly to the huge sales chain’s employees. The issue of low wages is very real with at least one Walmart store in Ohio holding a canned food drive to their store associates to feed their families on Thanksgiving.
Outside the Ohio Walmart back room, a sign is posted that asks for donations of food to help associates who don’t earn enough money for to feed their family a Thanksgiving day meal. The drive is being run by OUR Walmart which is a union backed organisation.
Apparently the group has been arranging and organising Walmart protests since 2012. The website actionnetwork.org has a header titled Attend a Black Friday Protest Near You! Underneath is a map with Walmart stores marked on it. It offers visitors to the site protest material and event hosting material. It also offers advice and problem solving via a support area with the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to Kory Lundberg, a Wal-Mart spokesman, this Ohio store has held these type of food drives for awhile now. It was set up to help fellow workers who are caught up in dire financial circumstances. Associates who lose a partner, or a spouse losing their job, long term illness, et al. Lundberg seems to be quite supportive of the organisation’s aim, but the very existence of the food drive adds fuel the argument that Walmart do not pay their employees a livable wage.
The spokesman did not know of any other Walmart stores who were holding their own food drive. It does seem as though there could be many of these type of drives since half of Walmart employees make under $25,000 per annum. With around 4,000 stores across the nation that could be a lot of Walmart food drives.
It is ironic that Black Friday; which is geared towards getting loads of consumers to enter stores for “great savings” on items, is generally worked by those who can least afford to take advantage of this “special sales day.” Retailers traditionally rely on this event to pull in money prior to the start of the holidays. At some outlets, however, there will be Black Friday strikes and some could be at a Walmart near you.
When the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton, started the business; he crafted his work force model on the JCPenney employment model set up. Walton cut his retail teeth working for the company, when he left to start his retail empire, he kept the idea of calling employees “associates” it sounded better, and Sam treated his fellow Walmart workers with mutual respect.
Sam Walton was the man who told his associates in 1984 that if they could increase their profits from the prior year, the then 66 year-old would dance the hula in a grass skirt on Wall Street. They did and he did. A perfect example of the type of employer folks loved and respected. When Walton died and the business passed into other’s hands, the mutual respect was lost.
Walmart’s image had taken a bashing over the years since Walton passed on. Employee’s rights, safety and wages have allegedly been horrific. Low wages have been a major bone of contention with associates and they have been battling for the right to have decent pay and hours. Walmart workers have also asked for the right to speak out about poor conditions without being fired.
Last year’s Black Friday saw protests that culminated in arrests for some Walmart employees who picketed a Los Angeles branch of the retail chain. Strikes are expected this year as well and with over one million workers already working over the Thanksgiving day weekend, the store will be anxious to get the jump on its competitors by opening early.
Walmart is attempting to clear the stain from its reputation. The chain has said that associates who work the holiday will get a holiday meal, a 25 percent discount on purchases and extra pay. On top of these “incentives” the retail chain promoted 350 workers in a surprise move on Monday this week. Furthermore the store says that 160,000 more associates will be promoted this year alone. While this all sounds good, OUR Walmart have not curtailed their plans to strike on Black Friday which could be coming to a Walmart near you.
By Michael Smith