Retail giant Walmart has been hit by protests and staff walkouts at stores across the US on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day in the retail calendar.
The actions began Thursday, as workers protested the retail giant’s decision to open on Thanksgiving, which is traditionally a national holiday, and what they claim are attempts by Walmart to silence protests from workers. Industrial action continued Friday, with organisers claiming 1,000 protests in 46 states.
Walmart workers in Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Wisconsin, California’s Bay Area, Chicago, Washington DC and other cities took part in the walk out, protesting wages and work conditions. The demonstrations were co-ordinated by OUR Walmart, a workers’ group that last month led the first strikes that the retail giant had experienced.
OUR Walmart workers claimed the retailer was intimidating those who protest working conditions at the retailer.
Walmart countered that it had had its best Black Friday ever and that the majority of protesters were not Walmart workers.
“Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates,” said Bill Simon, Walmart’s US president and chief executive officer. “We had very safe and successful Black Friday events at our stores across the country and heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers,” Simon said.
He added that the retailer estimated less than 50 Walmart workers had taken part in the protests. “In fact, this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year,” Simon said.
But protesters disputed the retailer’s numbers.
Dan Schlademan, director at lobby group Making Change at Walmart, said “hundreds and hundreds” of workers were taking action.
He said as a result of protests, Walmart workers had seen their employment terminated, threatened with having their hours cut and that the labor board was now investigating 35 specific violations of the national labor relations act.
Schlademan said more actions were planned for the holiday season. “This has been an amazing moment but we are just at the starting point of what we are doing,” he said.
Mary Pat Tifft, an OUR Walmart member and 24-year associate who led a protest on Thursday evening in Kenosha, Wisconsin. said: “For Walmart associates this has been the best Black Friday ever. We stood together for respect across the country.”
“Walmart has spent the last 50 years pushing its way on workers and communities. In just one year, leaders of OUR Walmart and Warehouse Workers United have begun to prove that change is coming to the world’s largest employer.”
“Our voices are being heard,” said Colby Harris, an OUR Walmart member and three-year associate who walked off the job in Lancaster, Texas, on Thursday evening. “And thousands of people in our cities and towns and all across the country are joining our calls for change at Walmart. We are overwhelmed by the support and proud of what we’ve achieved so quickly and about where we are headed.”