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Black Friday Strikes

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While you are engaging in America’s most consumerist day of the year, a real feat given the competition, remember the workers struggling to make ends meet that serve you. Especially remember the Wal-Mart workers. Some are engaging in Black Friday strikes, the 3rd consecutive year of these protests:

Kicking off the third consecutive year of protests, Walmart workers in six states have formally submitted strike notices to their bosses ahead of the Black Friday shopping frenzy, calling for higher wages and better hours, according to OUR Walmart, the group representing the workers.

OUR Walmart did not provide an estimate on how many workers planned to take part in the strikes this year. It did, however, say that workers in Wisconsin, Louisiana, Florida, California, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have already delivered notices, and it anticipates workers in Illinois, Minnesota, Texas and Pennsylvania will do so as well.

Charles Brown, an OUR Walmart member who unloads trucks at a Walmart in Newport News, Virginia, said he plans to miss three shifts this week to take part in the demonstrations. Brown said he joined the group in September to demand a greater say in scheduling as well as “more respect” from management.

“Some [other workers] may want to do a strike as well but are hesitant,” said Brown, 27. “They need to know they don’t have anything to be afraid of. If we don’t stand up, no one else is going to stand up for us.”

Black Friday has become an annual rallying cry for the anti-Walmart crowd, with labor activists and other progressives pillorying the world’s largest retailer over its wages and scheduling practices for store employees. It also marks the most contentious week of the year between the Arkansas-based retail giant and OUR Walmart, which is backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers, a union that’s been working to organize Walmart employees for years.

The $15 minimum wage and full-time work are among the major demands, although it depends on the worker and the store.

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  • Murc

    Time for ramblings from a former retail worker.

    I miss the old Black Friday. A lot.

    Back in my day (which I’m going to define as the late 90’s to the early aughts) Black Friday meant you were open maybe an extra four or five hours, and a lot of that was on the tail end of the day rather than the start. Opening up on Thanksgiving? Crazy talk. (We didn’t have Wal-Mart’s around here until later than that.)

    More to the point, there was a certain amount of spectacle involved. The mall parking lot would fill all the way up, something that didn’t happen on any other day of the year, even December 26th. The crowds would be enormous, impressively so. There might be a line to get in a store, wow!

    It was kind of fun even if you were a retail worker. It was festive, there was a holiday atmosphere, management would usually spring for like a sandwich platter or something. And it was so busy the time flew by. After your shift ended you’d do a little shopping yourself.

    The expansion of Black Friday into Thursday has changed a lot of that. It amortizes the crowd out over many hours, so when you go to the mall it’s just… a busy day at the mall, like any weekend. Sure, the mall isn’t usually busy at two a.m, so that’s kind of neat, but it’s hard to make the distinction.

    And it is no longer fun or interesting to work. There is a massive difference between ‘we’re opening an hour and a half early, better get extra sleep’ and ‘you’re working from five p.m on Thanksgiving until two a.m, suck it up.’ That’s not fun or festive. It’s grueling. And in many ways it is worse for store management, who are expected to basically live in the store for that whole weekend. (While corporate management, of course, are taking cushy time off.)

    I miss the old days. When kids didn’t get on your lawn.

    Also, to my everlasting shame I found myself in a Target last night around seven p.m. Didn’t want to be. Co-worker who is out of town on business (which is a whole separate brand of fuckery on the part of our corporate masters) almost literally begged me to turn up on his behalf. Guy just had a third kid and is strapped for cash and being able to buy a thousand bucks worth of stuff for 450 is going to make a bunch of his family and friends real happy this year.

    Compromise that was reached: I told him that he would be paying 500 dollars for a thousand bucks worth of stuff; there would be tipping involved with anyone who had to wait on me in any way, shape, or form, and he’d eat that. So the guy who unlocked a display case got a twenty and the girl who checked me out got thirty bucks.

    I feel bad that I encouraged our national feeding frenzy. And god knows I loathe tipping culture. But I feel like I kind of partially ameliorated things.

    • ThrottleJockey

      You’re a swell guy, Murc. Were you the one talking about Macy’s forcing you to watch an anti-union flick back in the day?

      • Murc

        That was totally me, yes!

        I remain proud of having sent their anti-union bullshit on to Erik. That was fun times. I’ve never been an inside man before.

  • cpinva

    I have no plans to go to a Wal-Mart today. if I do, and workers are protesting, I shall salute them (union member here), turn around, return to my car and leave. there’s nothing I need that desperately, that I’m going through a (non) union union protest over it. I’m guessing Wal-Mart is vigorously pursuing a union shop plan, simply by the upper level management being themselves.

  • matt w

    Seems like the right thread to leave this, partly relevant to Murc’s post: Some really horrifying stories of working in the soon to be late and unlamented Radio Shack (some on Thanksgiving).

    (So far the comments are actually worth reading.)

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