As the shopping extravaganza known as Black Friday came early this year with an increasing amount of retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, employees for one of the largest big-box-stores in the country, Walmart, prepared protests for 1,500 locations nationwide.
Organizers with the group OUR Walmart, who have helped rally Walmart workers that are fed up with poverty wages and poor working conditions at the retail giant's locations across the country, said this year's protests will be "unprecedented" in scope.
As Allison Kilkenny at The Nation notes, this year's Black Friday protests are the culmination of roughly a year of protests and strikes against Walmart by employees and their supporters, and this week has seen a number of preliminary actions ahead of the big day. Kilkenny reports:
On Monday, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) joined Walmart workers in Minnesota who walked off the job, and in Los Angeles, workers went on a two-day strike that culminated in the largest-ever act of civil disobedience against Walmart. Last week, workers in Seattle, Chicago, Ohio and Dallas joined them in walking off their jobs.
Additionally, Walmart workers at three Washington, DC, area stores went on strike Tuesday, calling on the company to end its illegal retaliation against workers, and calling for better wages and full-time work.
As Al-Jazeera reports, organizers see this year as a perfect opportunity to increase pressure and raise awareness about Walmart's labor standards, as anger over income inequality has grown worldwide and Walmart has been embedded in controversy over its policies:
Wal-Mart is not the only corporation in the spotlight, but it is by far the biggest — and this year proved an especially potent one for Wal-Mart controversy. The retail giant seemed to unable to avoid scandal: from reports that the company’s environmental policies are failing, to revelations that the Bangladesh factory that collapsed in April, killing more than 1,000 workers, produced goods for Wal-Mart, to stories highlighting the company’s low wages in the United States.
Groups critical of Wal-Mart existed before 2013, but this year they have been better coordinated and more willing to use controversial tactics to get their points across, according to Stephanie Luce, a labor studies professor at the City University of New York.
According to OUR Walmart, protests this Black Friday are expected in major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Miami, Bay Area, Chicago, Seattle, Washington D.C., Minneapolis and Sacramento amongst other locations, "in what is set to be one of the largest mobilizations of working families in American history."
In addition to better labor standards, full time work opportunities and fair wages, the workers are calling for an end to illegal retaliation by Walmart against outspoken employees and those who have taken part in actions.