Labor Unions Show Solidarity with Walmart Workers

Posted on 21 November 2012

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By David Dayen

We can now see why the imminent Walmart strikes on Black Friday have spooked the company.

Walmart has engaged in a two-prong PR strategy, dismissing the strikes as being carried out by a small faction of its 1.4 million associates, while also seeking National Labor Relations Board relief to block the strikes as illegal union-based activity. The thinking here is that the strikes have gained in strength over the month of October, with wildcat walkouts ongoing at both stores and warehouses, and that they want to nip this in the bud. In the Internet age, actions like this hold the potential for going viral.

And that does appear to be the case. Several sympathizers, seeing a point of weakness for Walmart, have jumped aboard with help in promoting the Black Friday protests. The United Auto Workers, one of the more insular unions as far as activity outside their specific area of interest is concerned, just went out to their members supporting the strikers and encouraging attendance:

Workers at Walmart are planning mass actions around the country on Black Friday to stand up to their employer and live better, forcing the company to recognize their organization and collaborate with them on important issues from wages to scheduling to healthcare.

As the largest private sector employer in the United States, Walmart has enormous power to set the trends not just for the retail and service industries, but for the economy as a whole. Wages and working conditions set at Walmart have a ripple-effect throughout all jobs: low wages, limited access to health care and no retirement security [...]

This will be the first direct action many Walmart workers take, and they will need support in their communities and around the country to back them up. So let's gear up and support Walmart workers across this country by joining with them in actions on Black Friday.

That recognition, that solidarity with Walmart workers matters for the greater economy, has a lot of resonance. The progressive policy think tank Demos released their study on Monday on how increases in retail wages would support the entire economy with tens of billions in new stimulus. Labor unions have a fractious past, but seeing them work together on a variety of fronts, including the unions that normally tend their own gardens, has been encouraging.

The Corporate Action Network has created a widget to help people find the protests at Walmart stores in their area on Black Friday (some of which will be held on Thursday, as Walmart decided to open their stores early this year). Meanwhile, the NLRB plans to expedite their ruling on Walmart's complaint, to ensure clarity before the protests begin.

David Dayen is a Santa Monica-based writer, speaker and political activist. He blogs at Firedoglake, where this article originally appeared.