About 1,000 Walmart workers in Argentina staged brief strikes last Friday, a union official told The Nation this week.
Rubén Cortina, the president of the Americas division of the global union federation UNI, said workers struck in close to ten regions of Argentina, and “almost half of the stores had some type of strike during the day.” He said those strikes generally lasted between one and three hours, as workers walked off the job to hold demonstrations inside or outside their store during part of their scheduled shift, then returned to work.
Cortina said that it appears that “about 3,000 workers” in Argentina participated in some form of action as part of UNI’s December 14 Global Day of Action to support organizing efforts by the OUR Walmart campaign in the United States (that campaign is the topic of my feature in this week’ issue of The Nation). The day included actions in ten countries, but Argentina is the only one where organizers are reporting that workers went on strike.
“Our main goal,” said Cortina, “is to try to call attention to the company, that they should sit down and negotiate with unions in the United States.” Cortina said that many customers who saw the workers demonstrating showed “solidarity attitudes, singing with us, and making signals with our hands.” “The exercise of the right to strike,” he added, “is a very common thing here…. it’s not something strange for us.”
Walmart did not respond to a Thursday request for comment.
Last week’s Day of Action was followed by protests this week greeting a ship that activists said was unloading Walmart goods from Bangladesh, first on Tuesday at the Port of Newark, and then yesterday at the Port of Charleston, where union members refused for an hour to unload the cargo.
“When Walmart first came” to Argentina, said Cortina, “they were terrible.” Early on, he said, “workers burned tires and broke windows.” To win union recognition, Cortina said, “We had to fight tough in every place and try to convince [Walmart] that they had to talk to us, and they had to adjust their way of doing things.” To this day, he added, “they are not the same as the other retailers. They are tougher and that makes us deal with them sometimes tougher.”
But Cortina expressed confidence that, with international pressure, Walmart would eventually change its labor relations in the United States. “At the end of the day,” he said, “the world is going to advance on organizing workers. We are going to advance on organizing workers.”
For more on the international labor movement against Walmart, check out Josh Eidelson's feature in this week's issue.