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Walmart Workers Gear Up for Black Friday Strike; California Workers Announce Second Strike

(Photo: Jim / Flickr)

Black Friday’s shopping bonanza brings people out to line up in front of stores for hours before it begins. It has trampled people, but not profits for companies that reap a large chunk of their annual sales on the day after Thanksgiving.

At Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, the world’s largest shopping day generates more than a quarter of annual sales.

Now, with the help of online organizing and Our Walmart, Walmart workers are gearing up for a walkout on Black Friday. The workers hope to highlight what they say is the unfairness of having to work for low wages, in poor conditions, while Walmart profits.

They also say they are protesting retaliation like reduced hours and lost jobs that followed a wave of walkouts at Walmart stores and warehouses in recent months. Warehouse workers at Walmart in Southern California said they will go on strike this week because retaliation from the administration has not ended.

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Adding to the tension, many Walmart employees will be working through the Thanksgiving holiday to get ready for Black Friday.

“This essentially cancels Thanksgiving for hundreds of thousands of workers,” said Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart, on a conference call to discuss the upcoming actions. “Lots and lots of Walmart workers are going to be forced to not have Thanksgiving because they’re going to be preparing all day for the busiest shopping day of the year.”

With more than 4,000 Walmarts across the country, organizers say online organizing has been essential to the campaign’s ability to reach far-flung areas. The Making Change at Walmart campaign site includes testimonies from workers like Mary Pat Tifft, who has worked at Walmart in Kenosha, Wisconsin for 24 years.

In fact, Walmart’s employee base for its stories has been in more rural and suburban areas, where low-income residents have few other job options.

The campaign has also used Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter to make itself heard. The Huffington Post notes that the campaign offers supporters the chance to help sponsor a striking worker. Since October 15th, the campaign has raised more than $13,500 toward grocery gift cards online.

Recent months saw strikes at Walmart stores and warehouses across the country for the first time in the company’s 50-year history. Walmart and two of its contractors also were the target of a class action lawsuit from temporary workers around Chicago alleging the company broke minimum wage and overtime laws for temp workers.

Cory Parker, a Walmart worker in Mississippi, said it was difficult to make ends meet on his Walmart salary. His home is in foreclosure, “and I’m not the only one in the store losing my place because I can’t afford it.”

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