The day after Thanksgiving has become widely known as “Black Friday,” AKA the biggest shopping day of the year for most major retailers. But for Walmart workers and workers-rights activists, Black Friday has taken on new meaning in recent years. It’s now the biggest protest day of the year, and the greatest opportunity for the workers and their supporters to expose the outrageously low wages, unfair working conditions, aggressive union-busting and illegal retaliation they regularly encounter while working for one of the most profitable companies in the world.
This year marks the third annual Black Friday protest at Walmart, and organizers report that it was the largest turnout to date. Thousands of Walmart workers and others who support their cause came together at pickets, strikes and actions at more than 1,600 Walmart store locations from coast to coast. The actions escalated in intensity from previous years as part of an ongoing and increasingly aggressive effort to fight the “Walmart-ization” of our nation’s economy.
Bringing people out to a Walmart protest when they’d rather be shopping, recovering from a turkey coma or spending time at home with family is no easy feat, but IBEW 1245 Organizing Stewards jumped at the chance to be a part of this nationwide day of action.
In Sacramento, Organizing Stewards Michael Musgrove and Nilda Garcia teamed up to help coordinate a small, early-morning action at the Walmart on Watt Ave in Sacramento.
“We had a total of 14 people out this morning helping us leaflet and holding our signs proud,” Musgrove reported. “I do wish we had a better turnout, [but] overall I did enjoy the day. It was a chance to stand together with my Union sisters and brothers for what we believe is right and do everything we can to make this country a better place.”
“I really enjoyed being part of this movement and having my children experience it too,” said Nilda Garcia, who brought her family out with her to the action. “It was a great protest!”
“This was my 3rd year attending the Black Friday action in support of the workers at Walmart,” said IBEW 1245 staff organizer Jammi Juarez. “I was encouraged to see more of the Walmart workers participating this year. It was a good feeling knowing we were a part of a National Day of action!”
IBEW 1245 members and staff also participated in a number of other Walmart protests around the state, including the actions in Milpitas, Manteca, Stockton and Clovis.
IBEW 1245 Organizing Stewards PJ Saenz and Georgette Carrillo worked with member-leaders and staff at UFCW Local 8 to coordinate the protest at the Clovis Walmart.
“Our message was clear and simple- Walmart makes more than enough profit to be able to pay fair living wages plus provide medical benefits and full-time employment to its associates,” said Saenz. “My dad, Joseph Saenz, started with Teamsters Local 853 in 1960, and as a retired Teamster who worked for 42 years, he was very pleased to see younger union members standing up for working people and their families.”
IBEW 1245 Organizing Stewards turned out nearly a dozen members and staff to the Clovis action, and also worked to bring out members and leaders from other unions and labor groups in the Fresno area. Approximately 65 people attended the action, and 51 attendees provided their information so they can participate in future actions.
“In order to maximize their profits, Walmart chooses to employ unethical practices like paying poverty wages and using part-time schedules to avoid offering workers benefits,” said IBEW 1245 Business Rep Rey Mendoza. “It’s imperative for all union members to protest Walmart’s unethical practices and help their workers by bringing attention to their struggle. We will stand together or hang separately. The Labor movement’s future depends on the former.”
“While we didn’t prevent people from shopping at the Clovis Walmart, we did bring awareness to the unfair treatment of their workers,” Saenz pointed out. “When shoppers … asked why we cared to support non-union workers, the answer was easy: ‘An attack on workers anywhere is an attack on workers everywhere!’”