by Street Heat
I participated in the Black Friday action. No workers struck at my location but dozens of supporters held a spirited and effective action that a) received really good media attention that highlighted the demands of the Wal-Mart associates and b) successfully rattled the cage of store management. All in all a fun day. Nationally the picture was much more varied from strikes with dozens of strikers and hundreds of supporters to a single supporter or striker (yes one striker) picketing a store by themselves. I wanted to share some thoughts on the implications of the Black Friday strike and protests.
- The strike was a successful escalation. The number of workers participating increased. A new layer of leaders seems to have stepped up since the earlier strikes. A broad spectrum of allies showed up to support the workers. Wal-Mart desperately tried to dismiss the actions as tiny and irrelevant. The key was to for OURWalmart to successfully show thatWalmarts intimidation campaign had not pushed the Associates back, in fact that new additional leaders stepped forward to carry out this series of strikes showed the capacity or OURWalmart to grow despite management’s campaign.
- The strike was a watershed moment for labor. Not because any Wal-Marts were shut down or not, but because WalMart’s image as a benevolent employer has been effectively challenged in American public discourse. Illustrated by John Stewart on the November 27 Daily Show
[To watch the John Stewart segment, click here.]
The degree to which the strikers and the supporters were portrayed as leading a just fight by many media outlets was a critical blow to anti-worker PR in general.
- The notion that changing Wal-Mart was key to change America and creating a new economy is now firmly established among American progressives. Before there was tepid support among many liberals who perceived the Wal-Mart struggle as just another union “pet issue”. It is now common wisdom among the progressive blogosphere and academia that Wal-Mart’s role in the supply chain is a key roadblock to economic justice for ALL workers.
- This is where I piss people off. I was disappointed when I noticed that a broad swath of the labor movement sat out the Black Friday action. I was mortified to find out that some large UFCW locals opted to not build or participate in actions. The more this campaign is seen as simply a project of the UFCW International by local UFCW unions, the more difficult it is going to be to build the grassroots infrastructure needed to expand the campaign. The active support and participation UFCW local unions and the full support of labor councils and other labor organizations are key to generating community support and protection for the OURWalmart activists that will give them the much needed “breathing space” to continue to organize and grow. Bureacratic abstention, Grudges and petty divisions blocking particpation in these HISTORIC actions are the equivalent of high treason in the moment of both peril and opportunity for our entire movement.
Street Heat is a a union activist in the south, He blogs at It’s About Power Stupid! Thinking Strategically About Labor’s Survival,