As Black Friday nears, Wal-Mart ($WMT) workers and community supporters are beginning 1,000 nationwide non-violent protests leading up to and on Black Friday, including strikes, rallies, flash mobs, direct action and other efforts to inform customers about the illegal actions that Wal-Mart has been taking against its workers. As part of the protests, Wal-Mart workers walked off the job Tuesday morning in Pico Rivera, just outside Los Angeles, in protest against the company’s attempts to silence workers who speak out for better jobs. In October, the workers in Pico Rivera were the first group of Wal-Mart associates to go on strike in the company’s history.
Last week, the 1,000 protests kicked-off with warehouse workers from Southern California and Wal-Mart workers from San Leandro, Calif., Seattle, and Dallas walking off the job. Workers in the Washington DC area joined them yesterday in going on strike. Wal-Mart workers from cities across the country have announced additional strikes in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Washington DC, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Minnesota in the upcoming days. Said Yesenia Yaber, a two-year Wal-Mart Associate in Chicago:
We’re not trying to shut down business, we are supporting our co-workers who speak out for better working conditions. These Associates have been speaking out for changes that will help all Associates help our families and make Wal-Mart stores better places for our customers to shop. Yet, Wal-Mart reacts by attempting to silence them. No one wants to strike, we want to work, but we can’t continue under Wal-Mart’s threats and retaliation.
Workers’ concerns about wages and staffing have been affirmed by newly uncovered company pay-plans exposed by the Huffington Post, poor sales reports and a new study on the retail industry. Huffington Post uncovered what reporters call “a rigid pay structure for hourly employees that makes it difficult for most to rise much beyond poverty-level wages.” Meanwhile, last week’s sales reports show that understaffing, which affects workers’ scheduling and take-home pay, is also having an impact on company sales. Last week’s sales report showed that Wal-Mart’s comp store sales are about half what competitors like Target reported this quarter, continuing a pattern of underperformance by the world’s largest retailer.