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Walmart workers are planning the biggest Black Friday strike in history. (Photo: UFCW International Union/flickr/cc)

Fighting for 'Fair Shake,' Walmart Workers Plan for Black Friday Strikes

'The constant struggle Walmart has created for families is not acceptable'

Nadia Prupis

A day after Walmart employees held the first-ever sit-in targeting the world's largest retailer, workers promised to stage the biggest Black Friday protest in history.

"The constant struggle Walmart has created for families is not acceptable. It’s also holding back the next generation from the opportunities and fair shake they deserve," Stephanie Ly, AFT New Mexico president and a teacher, said on a press call on Friday. Ly added that the upcoming strike will be the "largest mobilizing of working families we've seen in recent history," with "tens of thousands" expected to take part.

Those employees will come from more than 1,600 stores around the country. Thousands more have signed petitions asking for higher wages and better working conditions.

Barbara Gertz, who works at a Walmart in Denver, Colorado, said that the strike is for more than their rights as workers—it is also for their right to speak out.

"Every time one of us speaks out for change, we take the risk that Walmart will fire us," Gertz said. "That’s not right and that’s not legal. That’s why we’re going on strike."

Venanci Lune, a worker at an L.A. Walmart store and OUR Walmart member, told Common Dreams on Thursday that employees "have no voice. Any time we have an action, or speak up for our rights, they retaliate by cutting your hours, giving you three days off, or making you stressed to the point where you want to quit."

In October, Walmart CEO Douglas McMillon said the company plans to upgrade its hourly pay for part-time workers until it is "in a situation where we don't pay minimum wage at all."

But McMillon's claims do little to counteract the shared experiences of many of its low-income workers. Out of 1.3 million employees, only 6,000 currently make the federal minimum wage of $7.25, even as the Walton family itself accrues nearly $150 billion in wealth, and the company continues to cut the few benefits it offers—like health insurance—despite soaring profits.

"There have been many times my family can’t even afford the gas to get me back and forth to work, so my husband had to wait in the car to take me home after work," Gertz said. Despite the company's promises, "associates are still struggling and our stores are still understaffed."

As Bloomberg points out, Walmart could raise the minimum wage by making small changes to its in-store prices, such as raising the cost of $16 items by a penny.

Nearly one million Walmart employees will be expected to show up at work on Black Friday and Thanksgiving and keep stores open for regular hours, with Black Friday shopping hours beginning an hour earlier than in previous years.

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