Following last week’s unprecedented Black Friday strikes, the union-backed retail workers group OUR Walmart has identified two priorities for next month: aggressive pushback against alleged retaliation, and conversations with customers outside Walmart stores.
Organizers say over 500 retail workers struck in the several days leading up to and including Black Friday. That includes individual workers who went on solo strikes at their stores without previous contact with the campaign, as well as larger groups of employees at stores where workers have been organizing for months. Last month’s retail strikes drew about 160 workers, suggesting steady–though not exponential–growth (The Nation’s take on the strikes’ significance, and what it will take for them to grow, appears in the issue out today).
Colby Harris, who was the only worker to strike his Lancaster, Texas, store last month, said he was joined by at least ten co-workers this time. Harris told The Nation that another five or six workers signed up to join the organization since Black Friday, and “it seems like a lot more people are willing to take more actions the next time that we do that.” During the strike, said Harris, some of his non-striking co-workers “felt inspired, and then once they saw us return to work, it just gave them a little more confidence.”
During the holiday shopping season, OUR Walmart plans to communicate with Walmart customers about the company’s conditions. That includes internet outreach and face-to-face conversations with people entering and leaving stores. OUR Walmart so far has stopped short of calling on customers to boycott the company.
At the same time, OUR Walmart has pledged to defend workers it says have been punished for their activism. Along with discussing the allegations with customers, OUR Walmart plans to file a battery of new National Labor Relations Board charges against the company, and to form new rapid-response committees prepared to support workers facing future retaliation.
Both the customer engagement and the anti-retaliation strategy are designed to be ongoing programs that won’t center on a single day like Black Friday. But Harris said there’s also a major action planned for an unspecified date next month. He said to also expect “possibly more strikes, more walkouts, maybe some sit-ins, some picketing possibly. Just what we’ve always done, just at a higher volume, more frequent.”
Miami OUR Walmart activist Elaine Rozier said many of her co-workers are caught between a desire to fight back and a fear of being punished. She described one co-worker who showed up the Black Friday picket line, saw management nearby, and turned around and left in tears. “Hopefully we can just keep striking…” said Rozier. “I was hoping that we can do it once a week.”