At Walmart, this year's Black Friday protests will be the widest-reaching ever, organizers say, with pickets and strikes planned at 1600 stores in 49 states to remind shoppers that the people serving them often can't afford to feed themselves. "I have to depend on the government mostly," says Fatmata Jabbie, a 21-year-old single mother of two who earns $8.40 an hour working at a Walmart in Alexandria, Virginia. She makes ends meet with food stamps, subsidized housing, and Medicaid. "Walmart should pay us $15 an hour and let us work full-time hours," she says. "That would change our lives. That would change our whole path. I wouldn't be dependent on government too much. I could buy clothes for my kids to wear." The nation's largest employer, Walmart employs 1.4 million people, or 10 percent of all retail workers, and pulls in $16 billion in annual profits. Its largest stockholders—Christy, Jim, Alice, and S. Robson Walton—are the nation's wealthiest family,collectively worth $145 billion. Yet the company is notorious for paying poverty wages and using part-time schedules to avoid offering workers benefits. Last year, a report commissioned by Congressional Democrats found that each Walmart store costs taxpayers between 900,000 and $1.75 million per year because so many employees are forced to turn to government aid.
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For the third Black Friday running, America’s largest retailer is expected to face labor protests at locations across the country. Workers and supporters affiliated with the union-backed labor campaign OUR Walmart say this Friday will be their biggest strike yet. OUR Walmart first burst onto the scene two years ago, when it used Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, to launch an unprecedented, nationwide strike against Walmart. The group originally demanded that Walmart pay all employees a base salary of at least $25,000 per year, but has since joined with striking fast food workers in demanding at least $15 per hour. Workers affiliated with OUR Walmart claim the retailer pays so little that some employees don’t even have the means to feed their families.
Walmart workers—members of OUR Walmart—started striking today in cities across the country, saying they couldn’t wait until Black Friday to protest the company’s disregard for their rights to speak out for jobs that will let them feed their families. The strikes, which will continue through Black Friday, come days before what are expected to be the largest strikes and protests ever at 1,600 Walmart stores. The news comes as Americans nationwide are standing up against the vast injustices created by powerful people and institutions. Last night in Washington, DC, hundreds of protestors marched through the city—including peacefully entering Walmart’s new store on H Street. Workers in Virginia and Washington, DC are on strike for the first time today and are joined today by workers walking off the job in cities and towns in Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Maryland, Oregon, Minnesota, California, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. “I know I’m risking a lot by going on strike,” said Glova Scott, who is paid $10.90 working at the company’s new Washington, DC store. “But we cannot continue to let the Waltons and Walmart retaliate against us and ignore our rights when we are calling for wages and hours that will let us feed our kids. Walmart needs to treat us with respect and dignity.” Even as Walmart brings in $16 billion in annual profits and Walmart’s owners build on their $150 billion in wealth, the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year. The workers and their supporters have been calling on the company to pay workers a minimum of $15 an hour and provide consistent, full-time work.
Walmart employees who are organizing as part of OUR Walmart are promising the biggest strikes ever on Black Friday, saying more employees will participate than the previous two years. Workers have gone on strike and protested for the past two Black Fridays. This time, they will also be joined by “tens of thousands” of community members, according to Stephanie Ly, AFT New Mexico president and a teacher, the “largest mobilizing of working families we’ve seen in recent history.” Teachers, elected officials, members of the clergy, and others will participate in protests at stores, flash mobs, marches, and prayer vigils. While Walmart some workers will go on strike, others will be asked to report to work the day beforehand: Thanksgiving. Nearly 1 million workers will be asked to report to work on the national holiday to keep the store open all day, with Black Friday shopping deals starting at 6 p.m.
Twenty-eight people—including members of the clergy, community members and striking Walmart workers—were arrested outside a Walmart store in Los Angeles today calling on the company and its owners—the Waltons—to end the illegal threats to and retaliation against workers calling for $15 an hour and consistent, full-time work at the country’s largest private employer. The group was joined by hundreds of Californians who rallied outside the store in Pico Rivera, the site of the first Walmart strikes in 2012. Since earlier today, when striking workers held the first-ever sit down strike in company history in a Crenshaw, CA store, more workers have walked off the job. As a second sit down strike continued in the Pico Rivera store, the group of Californians said America’s largest employer and richest family are driving the income inequality problems that are holding the country back.