I have a bit of an issue about being in large crowds, so Black Friday shopping is never on my list of holiday to-dos, nor do I ever shop at Walmart, because I hate their labor practices. So supporting the Walmart employees Black Friday strike is actually a big no-brainer for me. But I know that there are many people who don't have the luxury of other stores in their area to patronize or are financially strapped enough that the deals that can be had at Walmart can mean the difference between having a Christmas gift for everyone in the family or not. I'm not judging those in that situation. But as a progressive, I would hope that even if that is the case, you could manage to stay home that one day, in solidarity with Walmart employees who, despite working for the most successful company in the world and for the richest family in the world, routinely are living at or below poverty levels.
And for all their pooh-poohing of the Walmart Black Friday strike, it does look like the suits are getting nervous about how this is playing to their key customer base:
In past interviews, Walmart has denied that it illegally retaliates against workers for activism, and [Walmart VP of Communications David] Tovar denied the latest allegations in an interview with The New York Times. But the company has not denied that it holds mandatory meetings to discourage it. (As in a union campaign, such “captive audience” meetings are legal, though some “threats” are not.) OUR Walmart confirmed that workers have reported being required to attend such meetings in the lead-up to Black Friday.
Christopher Bentley Owen, an overnight stocker at a Tulsa Walmart supercenter, told The Nation he and his co-workers were lectured about the strike at a mandatory 10 pm meeting last night. According to Owen, the highest-ranking manager on the graveyard shift read, “word for word,” what appeared to be a prepared script from corporate headquarters slamming the Black Friday actions planned by the labor group OUR Walmart. The statement called OUR Walmart a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, called its actions a “stunt,” and warned that by discouraging customers, the Black Friday actions would hurt employees’ end-of-quarter bonuses. Rather than downplaying it, said Owen, “It seemed like they were treating it like the notion of people picketing outside of stores could be a big deal.”
Owen said that his manager read, verbatim, a list of questions and answers that appeared to have been designed to instruct managers how to respond to workers’ questions, rather than to be read word for word. According to Owen, the manager read a hypothetical question from a worker who had heard that the strikes were legally protected, followed by an answer that, “It seems to us that this action is not protected by the law.” He read a hypothetical question from a worker about whether striking on Friday could lead to punishment, and then, “Answer: No comment.” After reading that, said Owen, “He kind of chuckled.”
Judging by the scripted questions and answers, said Owen, “They want to communicate to us, or plant the idea in our heads, that we could get disciplined.” Owen described the statement as “very much corporate-speak. It didn’t seem like it was written by our guy.” When the co-manager opened the floor for actual questions, said Owen, no one spoke up.
CREDO Action has an ongoing campaign for people to voice their support of the workers at Walmart for liveable wages and better working conditions. Please take the time to make the call and report back to CREDO. Let the Walton family know that they should be thankful for all their blessings in this season and pass just a little bit more on to the employees that built that largesse for them.
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