A Walmart strike has begun in Los Angeles, marking the first sit-down strike in the company’s history. At just after midnight yesterday morning, workers throughout the store sat down next to registers and store shelves and put tape over their mouths. Some even held up signs parodying the company’s slogan to show the company they’ve had enough.
The signs are variations on “sit down, live better.”
The protest isn’t about the Black Friday hours as you might expect. Walmart has traditionally always had employees show up on Thanksgiving evening to set up pallets and displays. While often customers would attempt to take items out of the displays early, some employees’ only job before the big sale was to guard the displays and make sure nothing is taken. This varied from store to store.
It could affect the Walmart Black Friday 2014 sales, but that’s not why the employees have taken to sitting down on the job.
— Suzanne Trimel (@STrimel) November 14, 2014
This historic Walmart strike is about the company’s refusal to raise wages over $15 per hour and give its employees consistent full time hours. Workers allege that the company has been using scare tactics to silence them, hence the tape on their mouths.
Being the number one retailer in the world, the employees may have a valid point. Costco workers are paid better with full time hours, and the morale is higher. The average Walmart employee earns less than $25k a year, about what a single adult living alone would need, and many of them have families.
One such mother, Kiana Howard, explained her own reasons to participate in the sit-down strike.
“I’m sitting down on strike today to protest Walmart’s illegal fear tactics and to send a message to management and the Waltons that they can’t continue to silence us and dismiss the growing calls for $15 an hour and full-time work that workers are raising across the country.
“Walmart and the Waltons are making billions of dollars from our work while paying most of us less than $25,000 a year. We know that Walmart and the Waltons can afford fair pay, and we know that we have the right to speak out about it without the company threatening the little that we do have.”
In the employees’ eyes, the Walmart strike isn’t just about money: It’s about equality and fairness. Over the past year, a petition to make the Waltons and their retail chain publicly approve a higher standard of living has been signed more than 2,000 times, and it has been allegedly ignored.
So far, the Walmart strike has led to 28 arrests. If the sit-down strike spreads to more stores, the Walmart Black Friday sales this year could be the company’s biggest disaster in history.
[Image via UFCW]