Walmart Workers Strike, Target Workers Threaten Walkout On Black Friday

Above photo: November, 2012, Walmart employees protest working conditions at a store in Federal Way on Thursday. (Photo courtesy KOMO)

Exclusive: Puget Sound workers are latest to join the strike wave, with weeks to go before a Black Friday showdown

Four days after the end of a Southern California strike, Seattle-area Wal-Mart workers plan to mount their own walkout this morning. The one-day strike is the latest in the lead-up to a larger day of strikes and protests planned for Black Friday, the high-profile post-Thanksgiving shopping day at the end of this month.

“I don’t know if I’ll see it in my lifetime,” Washington Wal-Mart employee Mary Watkines told Salon in a pre-strike interview, but  “I want all of the associates, including myself, to be able to walk into our workplace, you know, this place that they call our family … and not be physically ill, not just feel like you want to throw up or pass out or even just turn around and walk out” over “intimidation and humiliation.” Watkins added, “I want people to be able to live better, you know, like the commercial says … Nobody lives better except for the Waltons now.”

Today’s strike is the latest by the non-union worker group OUR Walmart, which is closely tied to the United Food & Commercial Workers union. As I’ve reported, OUR Walmart has promised major mobilization for this year’s “Black Friday” strike; organizers say last year’s drew 400-some strikers. Sub-contracted Twin Cities janitorial workers who clean stores for Target and other corporations plan to announce today that they’re prepared to strike that day as well.

“I need to be able to take care of my family,” Anthony Goytia told reporters on a conference call during last week’s SoCal strike. “And that’s why yesterday and today, I’m risking everything — my livelihood, my ability to provide for my family, my ability to pay rent on time, put food on the table – everything, by striking against a company that aggressively and illegally disciplines and fires workers who speak out for better jobs.”

Last week’s Los Angeles-area strike culminated in a downtown demonstration at which 54 activists were arrested in what the campaign called the largest act of civil disobedience in Wal-Mart’s 51-year history. Organizers said a count of the total number of workers who went on strike was not yet available. The same day as the civil disobedience, the OUR Walmart campaign unveiled a new website on which Wal-Mart workers can share stories and request protests anonymously or by name, and a petition to the president.