Wal-Mart Black Friday Protests, 2013

November 30, 2013 by  

Wal-Mart Black Friday Protests, 2013, Defying the nation’s top employer and a business model that defines the new U.S. economy, Wal-Mart employees and allies will try to oust shopping headlines with strike stories, and throw a retail giant off its heels on what should be its happiest day of the year. By day’s end, organizers expect 1,500 total protests in cities ranging from Los Angeles, Calif., to Wasilla, Alaska, including arrests in nine cities: Seacaucus, New Jersey; Alexandria, Virginia; Dallas; Minneapolis; Chicago; Seattle; and Ontario, San Leandro, and Sacramento, California.

“Like my mom always said, ‘You see something that’s not right, it’s your turn to fix it,” said 45-year-old Chicago Wal-Mart employee Myron Byrd, who plans to be arrested in his first act of civil disobedience today. “And you can’t do it by yourself — you have to do it with others.” Byrd said he was driven to action by “high school”-level pay and workplace disrespect, and inspired by the courage of fellow workers and his mother’s civil rights legacy. “I’m sacrificing myself, along with others, to do this,” he told me, “to show Wal-Mart that hey, I’m not afraid, they not afraid, we not afraid.” In an e-mail to reporters, Wal-Mart spokesperson David Tovar said that “planned arrests” were “just another way to make these orchestrated events seem newsworthy,” and that “these aren’t real protests by real Walmart associates.”

Whether today’s action is bigger than last year’s “Black Friday” showdown remains to be seen, and likely depends on how you count: Would more protests, and more protesters, make up for a retaliation-fueled reduction in the number of Wal-Mart employees who go on strike to join them?

Wal-Mart’s first 50 years were free of Black Friday strikes – indeed, free of any coordinated walkouts in the United States. Then, 14 months ago, a wave of Wal-Mart supply chain strikes that started with crawfish-peeling guest workers and subcontracted warehouse workers spread to include the corporation’s retail employees, first in Southern California and then in cities across the country. Strikers were members of OUR Walmart, a fledgling non-union workers group that first announced itself in 2011; it draws funding, staffing and direction from the United Food & Commercial Workers union.

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