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Labor & Economy

Protest, Hunger Strike at Long Beach Walmart

Pandora Young

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Black Friday saw a wave of protests at an estimated 1,600 Walmart stores across the nation. But for a small group of Walmart workers, the protest had begun a day earlier, on Thanksgiving. On a day when most of the country was at home enjoying a good meal, the workers gathered outside the Walmart Supercenter in downtown Long Beach to begin a 24-hour hunger strike.

 

Photo via Organization United for Respect

The workers were going without food to protest the low wages and part-time work schedules that leave so many Walmart employees unable to afford enough food for themselves and their families. The low wages paid to the bulk of the one million hourly workers employed by Walmart means that many rely on public assistance such as food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing in order to make ends meet. The price tag for this assistance is an estimated $6.2 billion per year in taxpayer dollars.

 

Photo by Rich Hastert.

Photo by Rich Hastert

 

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The fasting workers held vigil outside the store throughout the night and into the next day, when they were joined by approximately 200 Walmart employees and supporters for the Black Friday protest. Many held up picket signs or banners and wore brightly colored t-shirts with messages like “Walmart Wages Hurt America” and “While the Waltons Feast, Workers Fast.” Despite the spectacle outside, many shoppers arriving at the store still chose to enter. But several others told protesters they would shop somewhere else instead. Some didn’t even get out of their cars – simply honked in support and kept driving.

 

 

When the time came for the workers to end their hunger strike, they sat at a table in the midst of the protests, neatly set with white tablecloths and vases of flowers. Supporters had been bringing food for the long-awaited meal, and the results were somewhat lopsided – the table was piled high with bread and desserts, with nary a vegetable in sight. But no one seemed to mind, and when the fasters “broke bread,” a cheer went up from the crowd.

 

Members of the California School Employees Association showed their support. Photo by TR Albert.

Members of the California School Employees Association showed their support.
Photo by TR Albert.

 

 

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