Anatomy of the Walmart Strike; Make History With Walmart
Workers on Black Friday
1. Anatomy of the Walmart Strike: Walking Out, One Day at a
Time (David Bacon in Truthout)
2. Make History With Walmart Workers on Black Friday (American
Rights at Work)
Anatomy of the Walmart Strike: Walking Out, One Day at a Time
by David Bacon
November 20, 2012
Reprinted with permission of the author*
In the lead-up to Black Friday, Walmart workers - supported by
a number of unions - have organized a series of work stoppages
to protest low wages and unfair working conditions. Here is an
inside account of a day in the life of the strike.
On past Black Fridays, the nation's annual post-Thanksgiving
shopping celebration, Walmart stores have seen such a crush of
shoppers that people have been trampled trying to get through
the doors. On this coming Black Friday, however, shoppers are
more likely to see protesting workers.
People have been criticizing the chain's low wages and unfair
competition with local businesses for years. But for a long
time the company has been able to keep its workers from
joining the critics. Where it could, Walmart has tried to give
itself a paternalistic, we're-all-one-big-family face. Where
that hasn't worked, it's resorted to the age-old tactics of
firings and fear.
But Walmart workers are waking up. Supported by a number of
unions, they've organized a series of work stoppages, the
latest and most extensive of which will take place on Black
Friday. They call their organization OURWalmart (Organization
United for Respect at Walmart).
Strikes at Walmart stores are usually short walkouts by groups
of mostly-young people, propelled by pent-up anger at abuse by
managers and wages so low no one can really live on them. My
heart goes out to these workers. I, too, was fired more than
once for trying to organize a union where I worked. I remember
how it felt to be an open activist in a plant where the
company made no secret of its hatred for what we wanted - a
So when I went to take pictures at a walkout at the San
Leandro, California Walmart, I wanted to make visible the
faces of people with the courage to defy their boss. And I
wanted to see how people who like that union idea, as I do,
can help keep the company from firing them. This is what I
We got together in the parking lot of the BART rapid transit
station a few blocks from the store. Several dozen supporters
joined a handful of workers who'd already been fired, along
with a couple of associates (as the workers call themselves)
from other Walmarts in the area. Together, they marched down
Hesperian Boulevard, through the parking lot, to the doors.
Once enough people had gathered, both fired and currently-
employed workers held a brief memorial for Enrique, an
associate who'd recently died. Inside the store, they'd set up
a small memorial outside the break room. The crowd outside
walked solemnly through the doors and down the aisles heading
for it, carrying Enrique's photograph in front.
Raymond Bravo, who works in the Richmond store, and other
workers held a banner as they walked past the shelves and
shoppers. Misty Tanner later told me she'd been fired after
several years at Walmart because she wants the right to
organize. Her most recent work there had been as a member of a
crew doing renovations at the store in Richmond. What must she
have felt, walking through the aisles of Walmart, where she'd
been terminated not long before?
These fired workers are very present in the minds of those
still working. I remembered my own experience, after I and
several friends were terminated and blacklisted at a Silicon
Valley semiconductor plant. We tried not to disappear, too. It
wasn't just that we didn't want to feel the company had beaten
us. We found it actually reduced the fear among the union
supporters who were still working. They could see we didn't
just disappear (what the company undoubtedly wanted). We
refused to become a bad dream to frighten people. Everyone
knew we'd been fired anyway. Remaining present in people's
lives meant we weren't a dark secret people feared talking
I could see that the Walmart workers, both working and fired,
still cared for each other. They too were not about to forget
what the company had done, or let anyone else forget, either.
At the door to the break room, a worker who'd clocked out,
Dominic Ware, stood by as we laid our carnations on the floor
in memory of Enrique. Two store managers stood by watching us.
Another followed us, yelling in a loud voice that we had no
right to be there. He was especially bothered by photographs,
and kept putting his hand in front of the camera to stop me
from taking them.
It was pretty obvious that they wanted to disrupt what was
intended to be a respectful and solemn remembrance for
Enrique. Even further, they tried to make absolutely sure that
every worker in the store knew exactly how much the company
hated what was happening. Dominic stayed calm, an example to
his coworkers that no one needed to be frightened.
Supporters and workers together put their flowers on the store
floor. I wondered how long it would take for managers to
remove them, and all the evidence of this job action.
After we left the store, Dominic spoke at a short rally
outside, while the sun set and it grew dark. Nurses from the
California Nurses Association, longshore and warehouse workers
from the ILWU, machinist union representatives, young
community activists and other supporters stood together with
the Walmart workers.
Three workers from this store, Dominic Ware, Marsela Lopez-
Navarro and Cecilia Gurule, had clocked out and joined the
rally. That took courage. Everyone in the store knows the
company not only hates unions, but also has fired workers who
want to organize.
Once the rally was over, workers were unsure whether the
company would let them return to their jobs. So everyone got
behind them and marched back to the door, where a manager met
them. Dominic, Cecilia and Marsela then read him a statement
declaring their right to participate in collective action -
the basic activity involved in forming a workers' association
or a union. If the company tried to keep them off the job or
retaliated against them, they warned, it would be a violation
of federal labor law.
Then we all walked back into the store, accompanying Dominic
and Cecilia to the break room. There the key test was whether
they would be able to punch the time clock and go back to
work. It's hard to describe how good it felt to see Dominic
come out of the break room in his work vest and go back to his
I was never able to go back to work at National Semiconductor,
or the other workplaces where I was fired. In our Walmart
demonstration there were fired workers who shared that bitter
experience. But for this one evening, we were able to help
Dominic, Marsela and Cecelia do what should be their right
without question - challenge their employer and declare their
open support for the right to organize.
No one should have to be afraid that such a basic right of
free thought, speech or association might cost them their job.
Yet the reality in this country is that it so often does. And
at Walmart, the human casualties are very much present.
But for one evening, direct action by courageous workers,
supported by people living in the community around them, kept
firings from happening. That was a big step toward making that
right something that exists in real life, not just on paper.
[David Bacon is a writer and photographer. His new book,
"Illegal People - How Globalization Creates Migration and
Criminalizes Immigrants," was just published by Beacon Press.
His photographs and stories can be found at
[* Many thanks to David Bacon for sending this story to
Make History With Walmart Workers on Black Friday
American Rights at Work <[log in to unmask]>
November 21, 2012
Wow - the word has gotten out about the viral strikes
happening at Walmart. Walmart even held late-night mandatory
meetings for all store associates to threaten that "there
could be consequences" if employees did not report for work on
Black Friday. This is clearly illegal and continues to
demonstrate the bravery of the workers and why you and I need
to back them up.
In major cities, in rural towns, and in nearly every state,
workers are standing up to Walmart to say they will not be
intimidated. On Friday, they will demand an end to the
retaliation they face for speaking out about unacceptable
Can you join them this Friday? Find out the details and sign
up to join your local rally:
YES, I'll join a Walmart store action!
NO, but I can stand with Walmart workers.
This is a now-or-never moment for workers across the country.
Right now, we all need to come together in support of a future
where workers have a voice. This is the moment where we need
to show up in full force as loudly as we can to make sure that
the media and the Walton family know that millions of people
across the country are standing with Walmart workers.
I know it's short notice, but this is urgent. This Friday can
join with your friends, your family, and your neighbors to
support Walmart workers?
YES - I want to join an event!
NO - but I can stand in solidarity with Walmart workers.
If you've already RSVPed for an event or signed the petition -
then take a moment to make sure your friends know about the
Walmart strikes too! Click here to send them a message or
forward them the one below.
Thank you for your incredible support of workers' rights at
Thanks for your ongoing commitment to Walmart workers
Hilary, Jonathan, Sarita, Liz, Ori, and the rest of the Jobs
with Justice and American Rights at Work team
American Rights at Work
Jobs with Justice
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