On Black Friday, hundreds protest outside Walmart in St. Paul

Protesters line the streets outside Walmart on University Avenue in St. Paul.

Big-box retailers like Walmart pushed their Black Friday sales to new extremes this year, but retail workers and their supporters are pushing back.

More than 200 protesters lined the sidewalk outside Walmart’s University Avenue location in St. Paul today. They pledged to stand with Walmart associates like Gabriel Teneyuque, who protested the company’s low wages and unfair working conditions by walking off the job on Black Friday.

Teneyuque, who works at the Walmart in Apple Valley, is among a growing number of courageous associates nationwide who are speaking out despite Walmart’s record of retaliating against workers who try to organize in the workplace.

“When Walmart associates speak out, Walmart retaliates,” Teneyuque told supporters. “I’m here today to say I will not be silenced.”

Teneyuque and other striking associates have formed a grassroots campaign, OUR Walmart, to pressure the company into raising its wages, providing greater access to health care benefits and ending its campaign of intimidation and retaliation against workers who look to organize.

Don Seaquist, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189, said his union is committed to fighting for any Walmart associate who stands up for better working conditions.

If turnout at the Black Friday protest is any indication, the community is committed to that fight as well. The St. Paul Walmart has been a frequent target of UFCW protests over the last decade. None drew as large a crowd as the Black Friday event, which brought together union activists, families and members of the faith community.

Gabriel Teneyuque walked off his job at Walmart on Black Friday.

“Workers deserve dignity, and our faith traditions call us to speak out for justice at work and rights of workers to organize,” said Doug Mork, a pastor at Cross of Glory Lutheran Church in Brooklyn Center, who said the Twin Cities faith community would stand behind striking Walmart associates. “We’re with you.”

Teneyuque said associates will need all the community support they can get.

“Our fight doesn’t end today,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”

Comments

  1. I participated in this protest today. It was good. I made a sign at home before leaving, using my kids’ craft supplies. I googled “Walmart Strike” and read an online article that earlier this week in Chicago, riot police had arrested peaceful protesters at a distribution center there. I dressed in warm layers. I arrived early; I had never protested outside a store before. For almost 2 hours, I carried my “RESPECT THE WORKERS” sign over my head, and walked the sidewalk to keep warm as hundreds of others gathered to walk alongside me. I took many photos and posted these along with bits of the unfolding story with my Facebook community. I looked earnestly at the people driving down University Avenue as they slowed down to looked at us. Then I lifted my sign higher above my head toward a Walmart employee gathering carts in the far-off parking lot, and he stopped dead in his tracks and stared back at me and the others in complete seriousness. I wonder what he was thinking. I wonder what he told his co-workers inside. I hope he knows I want to stand in solidarity with him–that I want him and all the others to earn a living wage be treated with respect in the workplace. I want them all to know that I am willing to take a small risk on their behalf, and that I am dedicated to raising awareness and demanding that Walmart change its labor practices. This is just the beginning of my personal involvement . . . a really good beginning.

  2. Stan Squires says:

    I am from vancouver,canada and i wanted to say that i supports the Walmart workers in the usa in their fight for better wages and improved working conditions.The Walmart workers here in canada needs to do the same. A few years ago some Walmart workers in a few stores here tried to get a union but unfortunately it didn’t work out.They needs to keep on trying.They needs to keep on trying,there is nothing to lose and a lot to gain.All progressive people here in canada and the usa should support the Walmart workers in the usa in this important fight.This is a fight that needs to be won by the workers. Keep up the good work.

%d bloggers like this: