According to the Walmart CEO, 26 protests took place last night in Walmart stores but only 50 employees took part. “Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) said Friday that fewer than 50 of its employees nationwide participated in the demonstrations while about 22 million customers flooded into its stores.”
If this is true, it’s more a sign of Walmart’s successful intimidation of employees than it is employee loyalty, as suggested by their turnover numbers. Walmart is also claiming it was their “best ever” Black Friday in sales because they opened two hours earlier last night. They touted this at 8:33 AM today, but then, corporate spin waits for no man.
We don’t yet have the information regarding how many Walmart employees are striking around the country, but we do know that the protests are raging on around the country. The organizers say “they expect to exceed their promise of 1,000 total protests.”
Here’s a snapshot of just a few of them:
Click Orlando reported, “U.S. Rep.-elect Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) joined a Walmart worker as she walked off her job in St. Cloud as part of a nationwide protest against the country’s largest employer… On “Black Friday,” Grayson also joined a walkout at a Walmart in Orlando.”
MassUniting‘s Facebook Page posted, “Dozens of Walmart workers and community allies gathered in Quncy as the store prepared to open for Black Friday to send a message to management: ‘It’s time for change at Walmart!'”
Here are dozens of strikers at the Dearborn, Michigan Walmart:
The Detroit News reported:
Protestors started chanting “Walmart workers deserve respect!” inside the store shortly after noon. They carried signs, and some shook tambourines as they marched around the store, making it virtually impossible for those inside to shop and move around. A large crowd gathered to videotape the protest as police kept the rally moving outside, where it lasted until 12:30 p.m.
Civil disobedience is underway now in Paramount, outside Los Angeles, where organizers say 1,500 workers and supporters are demonstrating against retaliation. Nine people have been arrested for sitting in the street on Lakewood Boulevard, including three striking Walmart retail workers from area stores: Charlene Fletcher and William Fletcher from Duarte, and Martha Sellers from Paramount.
This was the latest and largest of a series of Black Friday rallies in cities including Lancaster, Texas; San Leandro, California; Quincy, Massachusetts; Miami, Florida; and Hanover, Maryland. Organizers say they expect to exceed their promise of 1,000 total protests.
Protester’s made this video today set to “Which side are you on?” 33 cities in 71 seconds:
We can only assume that Walmart’s spin is an attempt to discourage and discount the strikes. But then, Walmart CEOs aren’t known for their understanding of the human spirit. (The shootings outside of a Florida Walmart are sad commentary on our greed problem.) No one thought the strikes were going to end Walmart’s dominance, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthwhile.
The act of standing up is itself an important act. It is the beginning, without which there can be no middle or end to a story. In fact, Making change at Walmart tweeted, “One of the #walmartstrikers in FL just told press, “This is just the beginning…” #BlackFriday.”
It’s a declaration of worth.
I’ve lived in strong union towns most of my life, where no matter how inconvenient it is, you don’t cross the picket lines. Why? Because sometimes you have to answer “which side are you on” and when it comes to labor, there are only two sides. You are either against workers’ rights or for them. You can’t be in the middle.
People who think they can be in the middle don’t realize what unions have done for the 98%, or how much things have changed as unions have died off. In 1950, 35% of American workers were union members. In 2011, only 11.8% are members of a union. Just look at the disparity between what a CEO makes today and what a good employee makes, compared to the good old days when we were “traditional America”.
Lots of workers look at the benefits union members get and think, “Why should I help them?” The answer to that question is because when you help them, you help yourself. Right to work states have lower pay than union states across the board. But even more importantly, “According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace deaths is 52.9% higher in states with Right-to-Work laws.” The uplifting of one segment of labor might not be immediately apparent, but it does actually trickle down, unlike the Reagan rain we are still awaiting.
Unions aren’t perfect and they aren’t always right, but neither are corporations. The disparity in income over the last 40 years suggests that the “problems” are not coming from the union/labor side of the equation, no matter how often CEOs try to blame unions while paying themselves outrageously high bonuses.
Walmart will get their spin out there faster than the strikers will get their message out — after all, the media is funded by the Walmarts of the world. They will continue to have great success. In fact, I would argue that since Walmart is allegedly so unscathed by the protests, they might rethink their policy on their employees having a voice. But we all know logic isn’t a two way street when you’re whittling down the spirit to accept Chinese type working conditions.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.