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Walmart Workers: End Retaliation or Face 'Black Friday' Strike

Employees Protesting Low Wages, Reduced Hours

Common Dreams staff

Photo courtesy Organization United for Respect at Walmart.

Two weeks after dozens of Walmart employees walked off the job in the company's first-ever daylong strike, workers say retaliation for efforts to unionize must end by Nov. 23—"Black Friday"— or another strike will occur.

On Sunday, three employees of an Oklahoma Walmart stood outside the store with cardboard signs to protest unacceptable working conditions such as reduced hours and low pay, The Huffington Post reported.

Jeff Landry, 34, who said he has worked at the store for two and a half years and earns $8.65 an hour, said store management cut his hours a month ago after he involved a regional human resources manager in a workplace dispute. After watching news reports of recent strikes, he decided to act.

Since June, employees of Walmart and their distribution centers have held strikes after the company failed to respond to a proposed “Declaration of Respect."

The document called for, among other things, a minimum of $13 per hour, full-time jobs for those who want them, predictable work schedules, affordable healthcare and wages and benefits.

That same month, workers at Walmart distribution centers began to strike in California and Illinois, protesting working conditions there.

The first strike in Walmart's history began on Oct. 4, when 60 employees walked off their jobs. Five days later, 88 workers at 28 Walmart stores also went on strike, claiming the company was punishing workers who complained about unfair labor conditions.

Those employees were part of the union-backed "OUR Walmart" (Organization United for Respect at Walmart) organization, but Landry and two other employees who protested in Sapulpa on Sunday are not.

Landry said 7 others originally planned to join the protest but "fear" changed their minds. He said they told him at the last minute, "I don't want to lose my job."

Managers from area stores met on the previous Tuesday to discuss the strikes, Landry said, and "I think it brought a little fear."

The six heirs to Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, are worth $89.5 billion, Huffington reported, "or as much as the bottom 41.5 percent of Americans combined."

One percent of the country's entire workforce is employed by Walmart, according to David Dayen of Fire Dog Lake.

"This massive size enables them to set a wage, hour, benefit and working condition standard in a way that no other employer can," Daven wrote. He added, "The idea that we will see a labor market favorable to workers in the near future is remote. This is the world these workers live in right now. And they need to use all their tools to force a better situation for themselves."

Walmart workers have filed more than 20 charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board during the past 8 weeks, according to Huffington, including retaliation for attempts at unionizing.

"They're asking workers at a lower pay scale to fill in in a department with a higher pay scale and not paying them the difference," said David Gibbs, who also walked out in protest on Sunday. "They don't give you that money. That's $.80 cents (per hour) and I won't get to see that on my paycheck."

On Monday, Huffington posted an Oct. 8 "Response to Walkout/Work Stoppage" memo (pdf) circulated by Walmart to "salaried management."

The memo explains how managers should respond to a sit-in, "sick out" or other similar labor action, and remind them of what they cannot, by law, do during those activities.

"What managers can legally do, however, is what Walmart calls FOE — offer workers Facts, Opinions, and Personal Experiences about labor organizing," Huffington notes. "Walmart offers a sample opinion that says, 'I don't think a walkout is a good way to resolve problems or issues.'"



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