America’s largest retail chain Walmart is facing a very black Friday with strikes being reported in seven states so far today. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) plans strike action today in 1,000 locations across the U.S.
The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally known as Black Friday, is the biggest shopping day in the American retail calendar. Black Friday marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping period; a time when retail workers are faced with long hours and large volumes of customers for no extra pay.
The Walmart Company earned profits of $16bn last year and reported a 9% increase in earnings for the third quarter of 2012. That’s $3.6bn in profits to be shared among a small group of shareholders while the workers are paid an average wage of $8.80 per hour. The Walmart family represent the largest shareholding block and earn more than the combined earnings of the bottom 40% of American workers.
Workers at Walmart have been forced into industrial action over the last month due to their falling living standards. Over one third of workers at the retail chain work less than 28 hours per week and are not entitled to any benefits. This January staff will be faced with a tripling of their health care contributions.
Last month a group of workers in California staged a walkout this was followed by walkouts in six stores across Seattle. A total of 28 stores took strike action in the last few weeks. A rank and file union group called Making Change at Walmart is behind the organisation of today’s nationwide protest against low wages, spiking healthcare costs, management bullying and sexual harassment.
Action kicked off early this morning with workers staging pickets in Miami following overnight rally’s across the country. Strikes are taking place so far at: San Leandro, California; Clovis, New Mexico; Ocean City, Maryland; Orlando, Florida; Baton Rouge and Louisiana.
Walmart as the largest retail company in America sets the standard for wages and conditions in the retail sector; a victory for Walmart workers would be a victory for all retail workers in America. This series of strikes are the first strikes in 50 years at Walmart and is being supported by Occupy activists, women’s and consumer groups, and Walmart warehouse workers.
Good Luck to all the workers involved in today’s action at Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Washington, DC, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Minnesota and beyond.