Last Friday some 111 people were arrested in civil disobediance actions around the country as part of Black Friday protests against Walmart, said protest organizers. In protests around the country, from Sacramento, California, to Hyattsville, Maryland, and Chicago, Illinois to Orlando, Florida, Walmart workers and their supporters came out to decry the labor practices and wages at the nation's largest employer and largest retailer,* and to demand better.
This year's protests marked the second year that current and former Walmart associates went on strike over the Thanksgiving holiday to demand higher wages and better treatment. This year's actions were larger than last year's, and involved more public support. But striking Walmart workers weren't the only ones claiming wins.
Despite low shopper turnout and decreased spending across the retail industry this Black Friday, Walmart spokesperson David Tovar said in a statement, "This has been the most successful Black Friday in Walmart's history."
Tovar also defended the company's wages. "For our part, we want to be absolutely clear about our jobs, the pay and benefits we offer our associates, and the role retail jobs play in the U.S. economy," Tovar said in a statement. "Walmart provides wages on the higher end of the retail average with full-time and part-time associates making, on average, close to $12.00 an hour." But, say current and former Walmart workers with the union-backed group OUR Walmart, the truth is the majority of Walmart associates make less than $25,000 a year--a short hop from the current federal poverty rate.
Seven Democratic lawmakers urged Walmart to listen to its striking workers and increase wages, The Hill reported. Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ed Markey from Massachusetts, Reps. Jan Schakowsky from Illinois, Judy Chu of California, Lacy Clay of Missouri, Gwen Moore from Wisconsin and Jim McDermott of Washington wrote, "We stand with the courageous Walmart workers who are demanding better wages and an end to illegal retaliation," the lawmakers wrote. "Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, has a responsibility to their employees and our country to respect workers and their rights. No one should have to fear losing their jobs just for speaking up."
*Post has been updated since publication.