On Nov. 29, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, known as “Black Friday,” protesters gathered at as many as 1,500 Walmarts across the United States to show support for Walmart workers’ struggle for a living wage and the right to speak out without retaliation. Liberation News writers were there in the streets and have these reports to share.
Militant workers and supporters of Walmart employees gathered in front of Walmart on Carlisle Avenue in Albuquerque, to demand justice for Walmart workers. Over 100 people stood with signs and chanted in solidarity.
One Walmart worker, Sharon, spoke to cheering crowd about how she, as a Walmart worker, cannot afford the necessities of life. "I have to choose between rent, food, medical care, every day. I don't make enough to cover everything. The company never gives me a 40-hour week. It's time to organize and fight back!"
An exciting moment occurred when the militant protesters marched right to the front of the store, chanting and waving signs. The Albuquerque Police department moved in to stop the march from entering the store, warning of arrests due to trespassing on Walmart's "private property." The protesters were ordered to leave.
Instead of leaving, the crowd stood firm. The Raging Grannies, at the front of the march, defied the police and sang songs of solidarity with the workers.
After some time, the protesters marched back to the street to interact with the passers-by asking shoppers to go somewhere else.
A contingent from ANSWER New Mexico participated in this militant event and expressed resolve to keep building solidarity with Walmart workers as well as workers in fast-food and other service industries.
Hundreds of Walmart workers walked off the job and, joining with activists, rallied outside a number of Chicago Walmart stores to demand higher wages and health care for employees.
Ten protesters, including two Walmart employees, were arrested outside of a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on North Broadway Street. They were arrested for blocking the road as protesters chanted “When they say get back, we say fight back!” Many demonstrators carried signs reading “Respect Us or Expect Us.” Members from ANSWER Chicago carried signs reading “Unite and Fight: We Can Win!”
The protests were organized by Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) which is supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers.
There were 11 protests throughout the state of Illinois.
At 8:00am on Black Friday, organizers from OUR Walmart and local activists gathered outside of the Walmart location in south Philly to reach out to people leaving and entering the store. Fliers were passed out that outlined the abuses that Walmart workers faced and petitions were signed to encourage a commitment to solidarity with their struggle for a living wage, full time hours and end to rampant discrimination on the job. Around 8:30, OUR Walmart activists and PSL members led the protestors in chants and formed a picket line to draw further attention and give the Walmart management a sign that the people are serious about seeking radical changes to the abusive practices against workers.
A crowd of 100+ people gathered at the Walmart in Southeast Portland on Black Friday to demand living wages and better working conditions for Walmart workers. The action was organized by the "Making Change at Walmart" national campaign, Portland Jobs with Justice and UFCW Local 555. The crowd consisted of workers, organizers, union members and activists. Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation joined the action with signs such as, "Walmart doesn't care about people, they care about profit. We need a new system--people over profit!" showing the parallel between the Walmart workers struggle and the systemic oppression of workers.
The action began with a march from Walmart to 82nd St. with the enthusiastic crowd chanting phrases such as, "What are we fighting for!? Worker's rights!" and "What do we want!? Justice! What do we want!? Respect!" The crowd gathered for a rally by the street as cars honked in support of the workers. Another march circling the shopping center followed the rally, with the action ending back by the street with a closing speak out from organizers and local activists. A strong message was brought to Walmart: Workers demand living wages, not poverty wages!
Around 100 people gathered at the Roseville Walmart just outside of the city of Sacramento to protest the corporation’s poor treatment of workers. The protest was organized by principally OUR Walmart, and was supported by other unions such as SEIU and community groups including the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Sacramento.
Former employees of the Roseville Walmart helped organize and lead the demonstration. Some workers are trying to fight for better working conditions. One former employee who had been fired lead chants on the bullhorn like "Organizing is our right!"
The protest quickly formed into a militant action blocking the road leading into Walmart. Blocking the road prevented shoppers from entering Walmart. The action was designed to take profit away from the corporation and also send the message that workers were not scared and were going to stand up for their rights by any means necessary. Protesters sat down across Pleasant Grove Blvd. a major four-lane street (and off-ramp for the Highway) and locked arms preventing the flow of traffic. Police responded by arresting 15 protestors including former Walmart workers, OUR Walmart organizers, and activists with the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Peace and Freedom Party.
They were all later released with charges of failure to disperse. The organizers and activists vowed to continue the fight for better working conditions for Walmart workers and not give in to the repressive police scare tactics.
San Leandro, Calif.
"This is the future of the labor movement," said Ron Lind, president of Local 5 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, at a rally held during the Nov. 29 Black Friday protest at the San Leandro Walmart. The militant protest, initiated by OUR Walmart, drew more than 500 members of dozens of Bay Area labor, community and faith organizations to demonstrate their solidarity with the rising struggle of Walmart workers to win a living wage, better working conditions and respect on the job. Social Services International Union Local 1021 provided monitors. Among the many organizations participating in the inspiring united-front action were the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which had energetically publicized the event beforehand. Activists displayed a large ANSWER banner throughout the two-hour picket. Toward the end of the protest, the entire picket moved into the street chanting "Whose Streets, Our Streets," blocked traffic and showed solidarity with a group of Walmart workers who sat down in an act of civil disobedience and were subsequently arrested.
Nearly 300 people gathered at the Factoria Walmart in Bellevue, Wa. on Black Friday to stage a dramatic protest in solidarity with Walmart workers. Fifteen people, including fired Walmart workers, were arrested in an act of civil disobedience.
After a brief picket line and rally on the street adjacent to the store, protesters divided into three groups. Each group in turn marched down through the parking lot to the entrance of the store, where they set up a picket line after depositing canned foods into a collection box. Protesters labeled the cans with demands such as “Instead of charity, Walmart workers need a living wage.” This was in reference to the food drive launched by a Walmart manager to support Walmart employees living in poverty.
As each group approached the front of the store, Bellevue police gave three warnings to the demonstrators to leave Walmart’s private property. On the third warning, the groups marched back to the side street.
Back at the staging area, organizers set up a row of boxes on which people stood as they told the stories of Walmart workers including those who had been fired for organizing and those who had died because they couldn’t take time off from work. Jerry, Shanna and Betty were three local Walmart workers who had lost their jobs in retaliation for speaking out for their rights with OUR Walmart.
As the 15 workers and supporters continued to speak out, heavily armed Bellevue police in full riot gear approached the completely non-violent demonstrators and began arresting them as the rest of the crowd watched and chanted, “We want change and we don’t mean pennies!”