Coming Soon to a Walmart Near You: Black Friday Protests for Living Wages

by Kenneth Quinnell

On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that has become one of the biggest days of retail sales in the United States, Walmart workers and other working families are going to rally at the retail giant’s locations around the country, asking the country’s largest employer to pay its workers a living wage and allow them to come together and speak out for change without fear of retaliation.

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Despite making profits of $17 billion this year, Walmart pays its workers such low wages—the majority of the company’s employees in the United States make less than $25,000 a year—that taxpayers effectively provide massive subsidies to the company through food stamps and other programs. Additionally, the company is the biggest beneficiary of food stamp payments, taking in some 18% of the program’s outlays each year, or about $14 billion.

But the company does little to pay back the taxpayers for that largesse or pass its huge profits on to its workers, who do all of the work that brings in the rest of Walmart’s revenue. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently noted, the heirs to the Walmart fortune, the Walton family, are worth more than $100 billion, which is more than the bottom 40% of America’s workers combined. The family uses a legal maze of loopholes to maintain their fortune and exploits minimum wage and other laws to make it possible to exploit its workers.

Walmart’s working families aren’t taking the company’s greedy tactics lightly anymore, and the number of rallies is increasing each year. Making Change at Walmart and its allies are asking the retailer to make a relatively small increase in payroll costs—paying a minimum full-time annual salary of $25,000—which would not only help Walmart workers be able to provide for their families, but it would boost the economy and, in the long run, Walmart’s profits. Demos conducted a study that found if this policy was implemented by Walmart and other large retailers, it would:

  • Lift 1.5 million retail workers and their families out of poverty.
  • Add more than 100,000 new jobs to the economy.
  • Increase retail sales.

Learn more about the campaign and search for the Black Friday event in your area. Making Change at Walmart, the coalition that is helping Walmart workers organize the Black Friday events, is also asking President Barack Obama to meet with the workers to hear more about the importance of these issues.

Sign the petition asking Obama to meet with the victims of Walmart’s greed.

Kenneth Quinnell writes for the AFL-CIO Now Blog where this post first appeared.


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