Walmart Retaliates Against Black Friday Activists
Photo Credit: Oree Originol/ArtistsVsWalmart.tumblr.com
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As Black Friday approached, the honchos at Walmart, the largest employer in the United States, found themselves at a loss to respond to a nationwide rebellion within the ranks of their near-captive workers -- people who work for an average wage of $8.81 per hour, according to The National Memo, often in areas where Walmart is the only game in town for a job if you don’t have a college degree (or even if you do). And so it seems they started making stuff up, and pulling strings -- in at least two locations -- to get local police to do their bidding.
Across the country this Friday, Walmart workers and their supporters are conducting rallies and protests at or near Walmart stores, as shoppers line up in the pre-dawn hours for a crack at the super-bargains that are the retailer’s Black Friday hallmark.
For more than six months, two groups linked to the United Food & Commercial Workers union have been working on behalf of Walmart employees, demanding a living wage, a humane level of benefits, reasonable hours and an end to the company’s legendary retaliation against workers who seek to unionize and put an end to its abusive labor practices, including wage theft. Walmart employees number 1.4 million, and, as Catherine Ruetschlin of Demos reports, it is the country's largest single employer of African Americans.
The groups, OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart, are relying largely on social media campaigns to organize what are expected to be thousands of Walmart workers walking off the job today. Aiding in the organizing are former Walmart employees, such as Alex Rivera, who claims he was fired by Walmart in Orlando this September for joining the OUR Walmart campaign, according to a report by The Nation's Josh Eidelson.
On Wednesday, Rivera was handcuffed by Orlando police -- in front of his former colleagues -- when he entered the store in which he was formerly employed, because, Eidelson writes, Walmart managers appear to have falsely told police that the store had a “no tresspassing” order against the former Walmart “associate,” as the mega-retailer calls its employees.
From Eidelson’s article:
According to Rivera and an OUR Walmart organizer who accompanied him to the store, Rivera was leaning over to drink from a water fountain when a police officer grabbed his arm without warning, put him in handcuffs and led him to an office. Rivera said that the officer told him that Walmart management had informed the police that Rivera had previously signed a written trespassing warning obligating him not to return to the premises. Walmart “lied to the police officer.…” said Rivera. “That’s why they handcuffed me.”
Rivera says that he was released when the store managers were unable to provide police with a copy of the warning, and police realized they no such document in their own records.
Meanwhile, in St. Cloud, Fla., Vanessa Ferreira walked off the job in another Walmart store after she was disciplined for the first time in her eight-year tenure as a cake decorator in the store’s bakery department, an action she’s convinced Walmart managers took against her because she is a known member of OUR Walmart.
After she walked off the job, reports the Huffington Post’s Dave Jamieson, Walmart managers had police evict Ferreira and several family members from the store, allegedly for “trespassing,” telling her she was not welcome back on the premises until after Black Friday. After Ferreira filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that the retailer was infringing on her right to organize, Jamieson writes, a Walmart spokesperson said the trespassing warning had been issued to Ferreira in error.
Ferreira told Jamieson that she took the action because, unlike most of her fellow “associates,” she could afford to, on account of her husband’s income.
From Jamieson’s report: