The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States. It’s known as Black Friday, a day retailers reduce prices to drive sales and kick off the holiday shopping season.
For the past three years, Black Friday has also been the focus of a movement aimed at improving working conditions for thousands of employees at the multibillion dollar retail giant, Walmart. In 2014, protests erupted nationwide after unarmed Black men were killed by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City. Black Friday organizers and activists seized the momentum and combined their messages of economic and racial justice at thousands of Black Friday events.
These efforts demonstrate the increasing capacity of campaigners – and “regular people” – to build power by recruiting, mobilising and deeply empowering community members through collaboration, transparency and digital network building.
We spoke with activists and leaders from labor, union and other social advocacy organisations about efforts to bring their movements together around Black Friday.
Over 100 Organisations Join Black Friday Protests
OUR Walmart, a labor group comprised of current and former WalMart employees guides a growing network that includes civil and women’s rights groups, clergy and even some politicians. The latest actions emerged in some 1,600 stores nationwide. Workers rallied around calls for higher wages, more consistent work schedules, and an end to retaliation for speaking out against their employer. Before Black Friday, Walmart workers in a Los Angeles store staged a 24 hour fast, while stores in both Los Angeles and Washington, DC, witnessed historic sit ins.
Although actions started before Black Friday, the majority of Walmart workers went on strike on Wednesday, November 26th. Making Change at Walmart, which is anchored by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), is part of the broader coalition of groups that supports OUR Walmart. 230 organizations signed on to a letter to the Walton Family demanding Walmart pay their employees $15.00 an hour and provide full time jobs. Other calls include fair treatment for women, LGBT, and vets and to provide people of color equal representation among management.
“It’s mind blowing how many different groups we have here,” said Ed Lynch, Executive Assistant of UFCW Region 1. “UFCW is here, RWD [Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union] is here, the teachers union is here, international president of AFT [American Federation of Teachers] is here, the postal workers are here as well as religious leaders and various activists.”
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