Do you want to support a company that doesn’t respect the rights of workers and the families they support? Do you want to shop at a store that is all about making one company and one family rich?
As profit-hungry Wal-Mart plans to open its doors on Thanksgiving evening, thousands of Wal-Mart workers are poised to strike on the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday – taking a bold stand against their employer this Thanksgiving. Wal-Mart’s everyday low prices are coming at the expense of workers’ wages, benefits and health care – their livelihood.
Not only are workers short-changed by not being able to spend the holiday with loved ones, but are also being short-changed in their wallets. Meanwhile, the benefits to Wal-Mart’s bottom line will probably be marginal.
Friday’s demonstrations send the message that Wal-Mart workers deserve respect and dignity. Employees want Wal-Mart to create a work environment where workers are heard, freedom of speech rights are respected, wages are increased, and health care is affordable.
Last week, Wal-Mart filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in efforts to stop the demonstrations. This week, the workers filed a complaint against the company because in mandatory, closed-door meetings with management, supervisors are threatening workers with their jobs if they participate in the massive job action and don’t show up for work.
While the company earns $16 billion in profits, a cashier at Wal-Mart earns $8.81 an hour – a little more than the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour). Some take the stance that Wal-Mart workers should just go find another job if they don’t like it. They can’t – nor should they. With the U.S. economy still on the mend after a turbulent decade on Wall Street, jobs are still scarce, so it’s not that simple. Because of changing and often unpredictable hours, Wal-Mart employees have to be available, so they can’t take a second job. And if they want to find another job, many retail and service jobs don’t pay much better and most are part time.
Sure, these workers would like to get training, raise their skills and qualify for higher-paying jobs. But getting that training takes money. That’s what these workers lack. It’s a vicious circle that Wal-Mart counts on.
Wal-Mart has long been criticized for its retaliation tactics against employees who speak about negative working conditions, and the company has been disparaged for creating a hostile environment for workers, paying them low wages, shifting schedules, cutting hours back and reassigning workers to other departments in attempts to get rid of them. So, these workers standing up and saying “enough is enough” takes real courage.
Wal-Mart workers are standing tall for workers everywhere because the company’s decision to open on Thanksgiving does not only affect them — other companies are requiring their workers be on the job for the holiday, too, in order to keep up with profit margins.
Two other problems that Wal-Mart promotes should make all Americans angry. First is that when a Wal-Mart rolls into town, it gets tax incentives (often paying no taxes for moving there). Then it hires workers who, even while working full-time, still qualify for federal assistance. Essentially Americans are paying Wal-Mart employees’ benefits via our tax dollars while Wal-Mart continues to turn huge profits.
Second, when a Wal-Mart rolls into town, small businesses get shut down, run out of the market when they are undercut by the “low prices” that Wal-Mart has set on the backs of workers and taxpayers.
Fire fighters know what it’s like to have city budgets balanced off their backs and to do more with less while putting the public’s and their own safety at risk. When mayors and city councils want to cut fire fighter wages and benefits, we stand up for what is right. We don’t cut and run, we hold their feet to the fire. And that’s what these workers are doing on Black Friday.
There’s a lot at stake. That’s why it’s important to stand with Wal-Mart employees this holiday season. These workers are living proof that Americans don’t back down when the going gets tough.
So, don’t cross their picket line.
These are people who go to work every day and are standing up against unfair treatment. That’s the American Way. Everyone who works for a living deserves respect. It is time for Wal-Mart to morally do what’s right by their employees. It is time for all of us to say enough is enough.
We ask the public to stand with fire fighters when we take on employers. And we should stand with these workers on Black Friday.