From California to New Jersey, more than 100 protesters were arrested at Black Friday demonstrations against retail giant Walmart this holiday weekend. The protests came just a week after two Ohio Walmarts made the news for having food drives for its employees who couldn’t afford a Thanksgiving dinner on the wages paid by the nation’s largest grocer.
Many observers noted that it was bad enough that the American taxpayer is forced to subsidize Walmart’s profits by paying for its employees to get food stamps, housing benefits and other government assistance: now the corporation is begging its customers to donate food to its low wage workers too?
On Friday protesters called on Walmart, which is poised to rake in $469 billion this year, to raise wages and provide more benefits to its 2.2 million employees. Thousands of demonstrators — which included Walmart workers, their supporters and union organizers — also called on the corporation to stop retaliating against workers who complained or protested. Last month the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that the company had violated its workers’ rights for cracking down on employees who participated in Black Friday protests in 2012.
Even more demonstrators participated in this year’s protests, which also drew more media attention as a result of the food drives and the NLRB decision.
- 13 protesters were arrested outside a Secaucus, NJ Walmart
- 20 people were arrested in California’s Bay Area; 15 at a store in Roseville, 5 in San Leandro
- 13 protesters were led away in handcuffs at a store in Balch Springs, Texas (outside Dallas)
- 26 people were arrested for protesting outside a Walmart in St. Paul, Minn.
- 15 protesters each were arrested in Sacramento, Calif. and Seattle, Wash.
- 10 people were arrested near a Walmart in Ontario, Calif.
- Arrests were also reported in Washington D.C. and Chicago
- Union leaders who helped organize the protests told the Associated Press that 110 people were arrested at 1,500 protests nationwide
- A Walmart spokesman told the AP only 20 of its stores were targeted for protests
I’m here to tell Wal-Mart corporation to stop bullying the associates, starting giving us a living wage so we can provide for our families,” said Daniel Coles, 50. “Also to stop them from telling people that we make 25k.”Coles told the Los Angeles Times he supports his 75-year-old mother and 54-year-old sister.”I am the only one who is working in my family. I’m the sole provider,” he said. “We [Walmart employees] struggle to make it. Struggle to pay the bills, pay my rent on time, put food on the table.”
Black Friday is a big stage, and we’re one of the biggest players in the retail industry,” David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, wrote in a statement. “We’re not surprised that those trying to change our industry are using this platform to get their message out, and we respect their right to be heard.”
— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) November 11, 2013
I think we got our message across, and people listened,” Isaiah Beaman, 21, told The Guardian. Beaman is a Walmart worker in Landover, Maryland, who travelled to Alexandria in Virginia to join about 200 protesters there. “All we want is for Walmart to give us a living wage and show us some respect – that’s not too much to ask from a multi-billion dollar company.”
Norma Torres, a Democratic state senator in California who took part in a rally outside a Walmart store in her district of Pomona, told The Guardian that the workers “refuse to live in fear and refuse to accept the scraps which they are being paid. They don’t want a hand-out, they want a decent wage for their hard work.”
— Fight For 15 (@fightfor15) November 29, 2013
We’re here to support Walmart workers, to help them get a living wage for their families, to be able to get days off on the holidays without being fired like everyone else has,” SEIU Local 668 Chairman William Wilson told The Patriot-News. “They were open at 6 p.m. last night when people should be eating their Thanksgiving dinner. Their CEO needs to have respect for the workers who make them millions of dollars.”
I make enough to support my daughter,” Walmart customer service manager Crystal Zerr told The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, “I have a roof over my head, food on the table and I still have enough left over at the end of the month for little extras.”
— allisonkilkenny (@allisonkilkenny) November 29, 2013
Those Walmart employees are courageous because they are taking a great risk and they are stepping up and bringing the truth about the plight of millions of workers to the American people,” Bob Herbert, distinguished fellow at Demos in New York told the International Business Times.
We are out in force today,” Dorothy Halverson, a Walmart worker based in Placerville, Calif., told Al Jazeera America. “Our voices are stronger than ever before. I am nervous, but I refuse to live in fear. And we refuse to continue trying to make it on Walmart’s low pay, manipulative scheduling and retaliation.”
A message needs to be sent to the company,” said Robin Edwards, a former Wal-Mart employee who spoke at a protest in suburban Detroit. “We’re standing with the Wal-Mart workers and support them — and we’re here to fight for a higher minimum wage.”
— Occupy Wall Street (@OccupyWallSt) November 29, 2013
For our part, we want to be absolutely clear about our jobs, the pay and benefits we offer our associates, and the role retail jobs play in the U.S. economy,” David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, wrote in a statement. “Walmart provides wages on the higher end of the retail average with full-time and part-time associates making, on average, close to $12.00 an hour. The majority of our workforce is full-time, and our average full-time hourly pay is $12.81 an hour. We are also proud of the benefits we offer our associates, including affordable health care, performance-based bonuses, education benefits, and access to a 401K.”
- 10 Walmart Protesters Are Arrested in Chicago – Only 2 Are Walmart Employees (thegatewaypundit.com)
- Photos: Walmart Workers, Even Santa, Arrested During Protest (laist.com)
- #WalmartStrikers In Full Force On #BlackFriday (news.firedoglake.com)
- Report: 20 Employees Protested Walmart on Black Friday (breitbart.com)