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Black Friday Blues for Walmart

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Friday, November 23, 2012

What would get you out of your post-Thanksgiving, couch-bound stupor and to the strip mall on the infamous shopping day known as “Black Friday”? A break on a Prius-sized television? A chance to grab a LEGO Star Wars Death Star at half price (oh, we wish…)?

What about the opportunity to show solidarity with beleaguered Walmart workers?

This fall, employees at a number of Walmart stores and warehouses around the country began staging walkouts in protest over benefits (raises of up to 36 percent in healthcare premiums), wages and working conditions. While only a relatively small number of the company’s whopping 1.4 million U.S. employees have been involved in the strikes, their efforts have won the support of numerous organized labor and activist groups, including, in the Valley, Western Mass. Jobs With Justice. This week, the situation will reach an even more dramatic level, with protests and walkouts planned for Nov. 23, the hectic post-Thanksgiving shopping day.

According to the national union-backed Organization United for Respect at Walmart, “Members of OUR Walmart are coming together from across the country and are refusing to work on Black Friday in protest of Walmart’s continuing retaliation against Associates who speak out for better pay, affordable healthcare, improved working conditions, fair schedules, more hours, and most of all, respect.”

Walmart is downplaying the threatened Black Friday actions. “We will be taking care of our customers on Black Friday and don’t expect any business disruptions,” Dan Fogleman, a company spokesman, told the Christian Science Monitor. “We’re looking forward to helping shoppers get a great start to the holiday shopping season.”

So far, at least, the strikes haven’t reached the Valley’s Walmart locations, although allies have leafleted outside local stores. On Nov. 23, Jobs With Justice is organizing what it calls “creative actions” at Walmart stores. In areas where workers aren’t striking, “actions can vary from Walmart-focused Christmas caroling to petitioning the crowds with ‘I support associates’ stickers to wear inside,” according to a JWJ announcement.

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