Fifty-four Walmart workers were arrested Thursday night in what organizers are calling the biggest act of civil disobedience by Walmart employees of all time, following a year of repeated strikes against unfair wages, poor working conditions and ongoing corporate retaliation against those who are speaking out against the retail giant.
"Surrounded by about 100 police officers in riot gear and a helicopter circling above, more than 50 Walmart workers and supporters were arrested in downtown Los Angeles Thursday night," the Huffington Post reports.
About 500 Walmart workers and supporters had gathered to protest outside LA's Chinatown Walmart before sitting down in the middle of the busy street in front of the store.
The action came on the second day of a two-day strike at stores throughout the Los Angeles area, calling for better working conditions and an end to the corporation's illegal retaliation against striking workers.
"Walmart workers, many of whom are paid less than $25,000 a year at the country’s largest employer, are risking their livelihoods by striking against an employer that aggressively and illegally fires and disciplines workers for speaking out for better jobs," stated the organization OUR Walmart, which has been helping workers rally for their labor rights at the big-box store.
"Walmart has proven its willingness to break the law by illegally firing workers and trying to silence them,” said Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. “We are sitting down today to demonstrate that we won't allow these dirty tactics in Los Angeles.
“We need good jobs in Los Angeles,” said Durazo, one of the dozens arrested Thursday. “We need stable jobs that pay well and that’s not what Walmart offers. There’s no reason the world’s largest company can’t pay workers $25,000 a year.”
“I got arrested today because I believe that taking this step will encourage others to be brave and step forward and stand up to the world’s largest retailer,” said Richard Reynoso, an overnight stocker and one of the 825,000 Walmart workers who are paid less than $25,000 a year. “Walmart can’t silence me.”
"When I went on strike last year I had no idea what would happen, but I knew I had to do something to change Walmart,” said Dan Hindman, a Walmart worker. “I am simply blown away by what has happened since then. We are winning, we have so much support and we are forcing Walmart to pay attention to its workers.”
This week's actions come ahead of scheduled protests throughout the holiday shopping season, including the consumer extravaganza known as "Black Friday." OUR Walmart has organized a series of nationwide strikes and protests on that day.