Dumping on low-wage workers is lousy direct action

by Sarah Jaffe

(Walmart Black Friday Strike Facebook page)

The picket line outside the Secaucus, N.J., Walmart at 1 p.m. on Black Friday was joyous, festive and celebratory. The sousaphonist from the Rude Mechanical Orchestra had the slogan “Stand Up, Live Better” around the rim of his instrument, and banners declared solidarity with the striking Walmart workers and support for union rights. They called on the world’s largest private employer to pay its workers a living wage and stop retaliation — the firing or punishing of workers who speak out about their working conditions. The crowd sang “Solidarity Forever” in all its glory, shaking fists at the “greedy parasites.”

At least as far as I could tell, though, there were no striking workers at this particular Walmart.

Around the country, hundreds of Walmart workers walked off the job on Black Friday, the notorious shopping day after Thanksgiving. Organizers say that a hundred cities saw strikers and a thousand total protests were held, covering all but four states, in an escalation of an ongoing campaign led by the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). They drew support from Occupy organizers, unions, community members and elected officials; Congressman-elect Alan Grayson walked one striker out of a store in Florida, and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio told me, “I commend the workers who are exercising their rights to protest in order to improve conditions for other working Americans.”

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