walmart workers issue ultimatum, threaten to walk on busiest shopping day of the year

Walmart workers have been trying to reason with their employer and get better working conditions for many, many years. Walmart doesn't ignore their pleas and demands: it punishes them. Retaliation against workers who stand up for better conditions, although illegal, is commonplace.

Workers who have joined OUR Walmart - Organization United for Respect at Walmart - aren't asking for some cushy new deal. They just want the basics: things like advanced scheduling, full-time work for people who want it, a living wage, and an end to forced unpaid labour. (Yes, it's pre-1865 in the Republic of Walmart). But when they ask, they are punished.

OUR Walmart has had enough. They've issued an ultimatum. Walmart must stop retaliating against workers who speak out for better conditions, or on the day after U.S. Thanksgiving - what many people (although not me) call "Black Friday" - they will walk. From Salon:
One day after Walmart employees in twelve states launched a major strike, today workers issued an ultimatum to the retail giant: Stop retaliating against workers trying to organize, or the year’s most important shopping day, the Friday after Thanksgiving, will see the biggest disruptions yet. The announcement comes as 200 workers – some of them currently striking – have converged in the Walmart’s Bentonville, Arkansas hometown outside the company’s annual investors meeting. It offers a new potential challenge to Walmart, and a new test for OUR Walmart, the labor-backed organization that’s pulled off the first two multi-store U.S. strikes in Walmart history.

If Walmart doesn’t address OUR Walmart’s demands, said striking worker Colby Harris, from Dallas, “We will make sure that Black Friday is memorable for them.” He said that would includes strikes, leafleting to customers, and “flash mobs.” Harris was joined on a press call announcing the deadline by leaders of the National Consumers League, the National Organization of Women, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, three of the national organizations that have pledged support for the workers’ efforts. Absent a resolution, said NOW President Terri O’Neill, NOW members will join Walmart workers outside stores on Black Friday to ask customers “whether they really want to spend their dollars on a company that treats workers this way.”

Dan Schlademan, a UFCW official, told Salon that to avert the Black Friday actions, “at a minimum” Walmart would need “to end the retaliation,” including reversing the firings of workers allegedly singled out for their activism.

According to OUR Walmart, 88 total workers have been on strike since yesterday at 28 stores in twelve states. The largest group was in Dallas, Texas; others struck stores in Miami, Orlando, Seattle, Chicago, Missouri, Minnesota, Maryland, Kentucky, and California. They followed 70 who struck in southern California last Thursday. And as Salon has reported, this week’s and last week’s store strikes follow two strikes by about 70 Walmart warehouse workers employed by contractors or sub-contractors during the past month.

"I don’t think this will be a flash in the pan,” Chris Rhomberg, a strike expert at Fordham University, said last night. “If they’ve been able to achieve this level of coordination, I imagine we’ll see more.”
You can help. Take the pledge to stand with Walmart workers on Friday, November 23.

Your pledge, like mine, may be symbolic - I have never been in a Walmart in my life and I don't shop on International Buy Nothing Day.

Or your pledge might be concrete: if you're out shopping that day, stop by a Walmart to wish the striking workers well and tell management that you're not shopping there.

Either way, please add your voice so the OUR Walmart workers know they are not alone.

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