Wal-Mart Workers Plan Strike for Black Friday
Groups of Wal-Mart employees plan a series of strikes next week as the retailer prepares for the holiday shopping season. The workers hope the strikes, planned for Black Friday, will draw much-needed attention from the world’s largest private employer on its biggest shopping day of the year. Currently, about 1,000 individual protests are planned across the US on Nov. 23, according to a United Food and Commercial Workers Union official. The event will include walkouts, flash mobs and informing shoppers of Wal-Mart employee conditions.
“We’re seeing unprecedented support,” Dan Schlademan, Director of the UFCW’s Making Change At Wal-Mart campaign, said during a conference call with reporters. “In my 20 years of organizing I’ve never seen this kind of activity.”
Among the worker complaints is Wal-Mart’s tradition of “retaliation” against workers attempts to organize. Not only is Wal-Mart non-union, according to employees past and present, it punishes workers who discuss unionizing or join labor groups by either cutting their hours or terminating them.
In fact, in his book “Wal-Mart: The Bully of Bentonville,” author Anthony Bianco describes how when butchers at a Wal-Mart store in Jacksonville, Texas voted to form a union in 2000, Wal-Mart reacted by eliminated butcher departments in its stores nationwide. Likewise, according to Bianco, when workers in a Quebec store attempted to unionize in 2005, Wal-Mart closed the entire store just a few months later.
Wal-Mart workers have legitimate grievances beyond the inability to unionize. In a Nov. 15 conference call with reporters, Colby Harris, a Lancaster, Texas, Wal-Mart employee expressed frustration with inadequate compensation.
“We have to borrow money from each other just to make it to work,” Harris, who is paid just $8.90 an hour after three years with the company, said. “I’m on my lunch break right now, and I have $2 in my pocket. I’m deciding whether to use it to buy lunch or to hold on to it for next week.”
Harris also complained about Wal-Mart’s planned increases in employee health-care premiums next year. He said his paycheck deduction for health-care costs is scheduled to triple in January. Wal-Mart is planning to reduce its contributions to workers’ health insurance premiums in 2013, according to Reuters, which are expected to increase between 8 and 36 percent. May employees are opting to forgo health coverage as a result.
Seattle Wal-Mart manager Sara Gilbert, who plans to strike, disagrees with the company’s compensation package.
“I work full-time for one of the richest companies in the world, and my kids get state health insurance and are on food stamps,” she explained.
The Black Friday walkouts are being organized by union-backed groups OUR Wal-Mart and Making Change at Wal-Mart, as well as watchdog group Corporate Action Network.
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