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Wave of Black Friday Strikes Kicks Off as Walmart CEO Steps Down

Making Change at Walmart: "The movement of low-wage workers has taken off in 2013"

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Employees from Brooklyn Center, Minn. kicked off a week of actions against retail giant Walmart with a boycott on Monday. (Photo via The Union Advocate)Ahead of what is being called the largest day of action yet against Walmart on the upcoming Black Friday shopping extravaganza, a wave of strikes against the retail giant have already begun.

Workers in Miami, Florida and Brooklyn Center, Minnesota walked off the job Monday following actions in Tampa on Saturday and strikes in Sacramento, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and cities in Ohio earlier this month.

"We're at an exciting moment, the movement of low-wage workers has taken off in 2013," Dan Schadelman, campaign director for Making a Change at Walmart, said of the Black Friday protests.

Brooklyn Center employees Andrea Williams, April Williams and Lillian Griffin said they decided to take a stand after earlier attempts to organize in favor of better wages, benefits and "a voice on the job" drew retaliation from store managers.

“If you try to speak out to management [...] they cut your hours,” Andrea Williams told St. Paul's Union Advocate. Like Walmart workers across the country, the women—who make $8.40 and $9.50 an hour and are thus reliant on public assistance programs to support their families—are calling on the billion dollar chain to pay them a living wage, offer full-time hours and benefits, and put an end to the rampant acts of retaliation.

Protest organizers estimate that employees will boycott over 1,500 locations on Friday, disrupting what many call the 'largest shopping day of the year' to bring awareness to the company's culture of low pay and intimidation.

Amid the growing unrest, Walmart CEO Mike Duke announced his retirement Monday. According to reports, he is going to be replaced by veteran Walmart employee and CEO of Walmart International Doug McMillon.

As Fortune magazine notes, among the myriad complications the incoming executive will face, the "most public and populist" is the chain's "contentious relationship" with its hourly workers. 

“Walmart has been heading in the wrong direction, and it’s a testament to the pressure the company is feeling that they’re changing leadership at this moment," said Tiffany Beroid, OUR Walmart member and Laurel, Maryland Walmart employee.

"Mr. McMillon has an opportunity to be a leader in moving Walmart in the right direction, not just in offering more empty promises," she continued. "We sincerely hope that Mr. McMillon will answer the country’s calls for Walmart to publicly commit to paying $25,000 a year, providing full-time work and ending its illegal retaliation against its own employees.”

"As the largest private employer in the United States and the world, Walmart is setting the standard for jobs," writes Making Change for Walmart, a coalition of groups aimed at reforming the retail giant.

They continue:

That standard is so low that hundreds of thousands of its employees are living in poverty—even many that work full time.

The average full time Walmart “associate” makes about $15,500 a year. And worse, Walmart is pushing more and more workers toward a permanent part-time status.

Across the country, workers and communities are coming together as one to say enough is enough.

Labor group OUR Walmart, which has been instrumental in organizing the Black Friday protests, has put together a live feed covering Friday's actions.

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