As Black Friday approached, I couldn’t help but remember a vivid scene in The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver where an entire Congo village is overrun by a swarm of ants, creating a human stampede, a living wall of death. The only thing that saves one of the missionary’s daughters are two words of advice that would serve any Walmart shopper well – “elbows out.”
This year, Walmart’s Black Friday customers had to contend with a new challenge: striking workers and their community supporters, who staged actions at stores across the country. Judging by the breadth and intensity of the protests, Walmart diehards had better get used to facing picket lines, and not just on the busiest shopping day of the year.
The origins of the “Black Friday” label are contentious, with commercial interests arguing that it lies in the accounting term of being profitable,
For a list of today’s Walmart protest actions, see our Guide to Black Friday Strikes.
Talk about your perfect storm. Walmart, which in recent years has been raising the danger level for shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, has now created a new attractive nuisance that’s being called Gray Thursday. This is when Walmart stores open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening, ostensibly to alleviate security and safety pressures on Black Friday, the traditional pre-dawn running of the bulls – er, shoppers – down the stores’ aisles in search of cut-rate prices.
The safety rationale of opening a store six or eight hours ahead of Black Friday is highly debatable; what’s not disputed is that Walmart is ordering in armies of its underpaid employees to work on a night they have traditionally enjoyed as a holiday. But the only tradition this company respects is that of making money on the backs of its mistreated “associates” – workers who are only able to live paycheck to paycheck with the help of food stamps and other government-provided poverty entitlements.
October was a banner month for Walmart workers nationwide. Each week saw more Walmart workers speaking up and going on strike, to protest Walmart’s attempts to silence workers and retaliate against them. The strikes culminated in an announcement at Walmart’s Arkansas headquarters that if the retaliation does not cease, workers will make Black Friday a “memorable” day for the company.
To make Black Friday a success, Walmart workers need the support of community members like you. Our website now features a number of ways to get involved and support Walmart strikers on Black Friday.
On the heels of growing Walmart unrest that began on Thursday, October 4 at the Pico Rivera Walmart in Southern Los Angeles, the first-ever strike in Walmart’s history, activists gathered at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart is holding its annual financial analyst meeting. As roughly 200 striking Walmart associates and community supporters rallied in Bentonville in the name of changing Walmart labor practices, an agreement was reached via OUR Walmart for an action aimed at Black Friday, the most anticipated shopping day of the year for consumers and retailers and the kick-off to the holiday shopping season.
On Wednesday morning, a tele-conference with striking Walmart workers and community supporters was staged to announce new calls for change at Walmart. At the helm was Daniel Schlademan, Director at Making Change at Walmart, who emphasized the push towards Black Friday. He was echoed on the call by Evelyn Cruz (Pico Rivera Walmart employee),