Americans Protest Walmart Wages on Black Friday
The battle wasn’t just for deals on Friday, but for fair wages. During the annual Black Friday sales event, Americans took to Walmart to protest the store’s low employee wages.
According to the Huffington Post, these protests were planned for more than 1,600 of Walmart’s 4,000 stores, though it’s unclear if all of those took place. This was the third year that such protests took place on Black Friday and was planned to be the biggest demonstration so far. Walmart employees handed out leaflets and held signs with phrases like, “Walmart: Stop Bullying, Stop Firing, Start Paying” and “We’re Drawing a Line at the Poverty Line: $25,000/year.” Walmart, which employs about 1.3 million workers in the U.S., says it pays full-time workers an average of $12.94 an hour. The store was criticized for photos of donation buckets that were accepting foods for its employees’ Thanksgiving dinners, implicitly acknowledging the fact that many of its employees live in impoverished conditions.
These protesters are not alone in their desire for a livable minimum wage. According to the Huffington Post, 226 organizations — including the National Organization for Women, the NAACP, the Sierra Club, MoveOn.org, the U.S. Student Association, Dream Defenders, and the AFL-CIO — signed a letter to Walmart chairman and owner Rob Walton this week. The letter requested that Walmart raise pay to $15 an hour as well as provide consistent, full-time work for workers.
Walmart has not only come under fire in recent history for not paying employees a livable minimum wage, but also for issues of sexism and unethical labor practices. Women employees have filed a suit against the company for paying women less than men for the same jobs; immigrant rights activists has called the corporation out for working with contractors who exploit undocumented immigrants to work as Walmart’s janitors; and pro-small business organizations have attempted to stop Walmart from opening stores that drive local stores out of businesses.
Dan Schlademan, a campaign director, told CNN Money that hundreds of workers were participating on Friday. Of those workers, 30 walked out of work at stores in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. and seven were arrested for blocking traffic outside a store in Chicago. Many of the protesters, though, were not Walmart employees, but rather union-affiliated proponents of better working conditions and a higher minimum wage.
According to CNN Money, most of the protesters in New Jersey were members of unions including the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the American Postal Workers Union, not Walmart employees. “We will not rest until Walmart workers have a right to a union, a right to a living wage, and a right to decent working conditions and hours,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union, said to the crowd at that protest.
These wage protests are not to be confused with other protests that hit various stores as a part of the #BoycottBlackFriday movement. For example, dozens of protesters visited Walmart, Target, and other stores (mainly in Missouri, but protests the past week have covered the nation) over the Michael Brown verdict, according to The Associated Press.
Overall, the Associate Press reports, citing data from research firm ShopperTrak, U.S. shoppers spent $9.1 billion at stores on Black Friday. That number reflects a drop of 7% from last year, but doesn’t factor in the spending on Thursday evening — as many stores opened for sales earlier than ever. It also doesn’t account for online sales, which, according to IBM, online sales increased by 9.5%.