Activists in Secaucus, New Jersey, engage in an act of civil disobedience during a Black Friday Walmart protest. All photos by Allison Kilkenny
Walmart employees and supporters protested in cities all across the country on Black Friday in opposition to Walmart’s low wages and poor treatment of workers. In some cases, protesters volunteered to engage in acts of civil disobedience and were arrested by police. Organizers expected 1,500 total protests in California, Alaska, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington and Canada. In Secaucus, New Jersey, thirteen activists were arrested after sitting in the middle of the street to block traffic.
Marc Bowers said he worked at a Walmart in Dallas, Texas, for eight years before he was fired for participating in a strike. After Walmart fired him, he decided to get more involved with worker organizing, including traveling to New Jersey for this year’s Black Friday protest. Bowers said he hopes to inspire other workers enduring similar hardships. (Photo: Elaine Rozier and Marc Bowers, right, at today’s New Jersey protest)
“If you let people know what’s going on, they’ll get involved too. They’re probably fed up with the same things,” he said.
Bowers added that this labor struggle will influence future generations.
“I’m here to fight for everybody who has been done wrong. I feel like, if I don’t fight, our next generation of kids will not have a future. As a man, I have the right to stand up on my own two feet. And I’m doing it right now,” he said.
The National Labor Relations Board announced last week that it plans to pursue charges against Walmart for threatening and punishing workers who planned to go on strike last year. The agency’s general counsel investigated and “found merit” in workers’ claims that Walmart “unlawfully threatened” employees for participating in walkouts during last year’s Black Friday.
According to the agency, Walmart intimidated, surveilled or punished workers in fourteen different states, which is illegal under US labor law.
The threats and intimidation include comments from official Walmart spokesperson David Tovar, who told CBS Evening News last year, “There could be consequences” for workers participating in any actions.
Also in attendance at the Secaucus protest was Elaine Rozier, who worked at a Walmart in Miami, Florida, for eight years.
“I’m here today to represent all the solid Walmart workers that are afraid to stand up for their rights. I’m here to represent the nation, to let Walmart corporation know that we’re not standing back. I’m stand up for my rights, for my kids, for my grandkids and their kids. I’m tired of not getting living wages,” Rozier said, before thanking the other activists for lending support.
Other arrests occurred in Chicago, where ten protesters were arrested for allegedly blocking traffic, along with nine activists in Alexandria, Virginia. In Balch Springs, Texas, thirteen protesters were also arrested for blocking traffic and “creat[ing] a dangerous situation” for themselves and drives, according to Deputy Chief Paul Haber.
“Everyone has a living wage and we need one, too,” said Myron Byrd, 45, a Walmart worker who was led away in handcuffs by police.
According to organizers, at least fifty-five people have been arrested during this year’s Black Friday Walmart protests.
Update: Organizers from UFCW and Our Walmart now estimate more than 110 activists have been arrested.