By Daphne R
In case you’ve missed it in the news, WalMart workers have been forming unions, organizing public protests and speaking up for change to their low salaries and mistreatment on the job across America. The groups are currently planning a number of staged protests during Black Friday, November 29th.
In a recently released video, Wal-Mart associates presented management of a store in Raleigh, NC with 170,000 signatures on a petition requesting change and performed a Greek-like step routine in the main aisle of the store. Management was shocked by the display and called police. No arrests were made, but the video has since gone viral over the internet. You can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuCNH7dqZxg
The petition which I found on the union’s website ChangeWalMart.org is actually addressed to President Barack Obama urging him to make good on his campaign promise to stand up for working people by meeting with them to hear their concerns about low wages and threats of being fired for standing up for their rights by joining together as the Organization United for Respect at WalMart (OUR WalMart). In the petition, WalMart is described as one of the richest dynasties in the nation that is paying almost a million workers poverty wages of less than $25,000 annually, not enough to care for their families.
Their effort is being supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and a growing coalition that includes many AFL-CIO affiliated unions, state federations, and central labor councils.
The Union is asking all union members and store associates across the country to come together in solidarity on the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday.
“Walmart continues to fire the most outspoken OUR Walmart leaders,” Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO Presidents said. “Nearly 100 Walmart associates have been disciplined and harassed. Thirty have been terminated. But through tremendous resolve and determination, they continue to speak out and grow the OUR Walmart movement in their stores.”
WalMart’s gross profit for 2012 was reported at $119.95 billion claiming more than $32 billion in profit with its highest ranking officer taking home a salary of $20.7 million. Yet the average pay for a full-time associate appears to be $8.81 per hour according to IBISWorld, an independent market research group.
Amid pressure, WalMart CEO, Mike Duke, is reportedly stepping down and taking early retirement as a result of clashes with the union workers. And today, the company announced Duke’s successor will be Doug McMillon, a company veteran. McMillon is expected to take over in February 2014. Duke, however, will remain Chairman of the Board of Directors at WalMart.
Also, today, workers were striking in Miami and St Paul, Minnesota. Katie, an associate who has worked at a WalMart store in Miami for three years making $8.75 an hour, told ThinkProgress that she’s striking to improve conditions for both herself and her coworkers. “We’re going on strike for better benefits, for better pay for associates, and for respect,” she said.
There have been eight strikes this month, coming after workers either called out or walked off the job in Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, Ohio and Los Angeles.
Twitter is all abuzz with tweets encouraging shoppers to boycott WalMart and join in with protesters this Black Friday. And I there are numerous blog posts on the MakingChangeAtWalMart.org website highlighting workers who are scraping by on wages of less than $25,000.
‘I’m a father of 3 and I’m on schedule to make $12,000 this year. I don’t need cable or to own a house but I shouldn’t have to donate plasma just to feed my kids,’ Anthony Goytia, WalMart Worker, appeared in an ad on Twitter bearing his image along with the quote.
“I want nothing more than to be a good provider for my family. However, with what Walmart pays us it’s hard to do that. I am not looking for charity all I want is the hours and pay that will allow me to take care of my family. If I were making $25,000 a year things would be different, things would be better,” writes Dan Hindman who makes only $5,600 annually.”
A WalMart spokesperson told Forbes magazine, “it’ll be business as usual on Black Friday — and on Thanksgiving itself, when workers putting in holiday hours will receive what amounts to an extra day of pay. In addition, they’ll be rewarded with a 25% discount on a basket of Walmart food and products.”
There are more than 1500 protests currently being organized so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Will you be in line for big deals at WalMart on Black Friday?
Daphne R is an experienced marketing and communications professional that provides social commentary, self-help, tips, and reports news of events that matter to African Americans.