Retail workers’ Black Friday wish list includes higher wages, a voice on the job

In a press conference outside the Midway Walmart, activists outline plans to protest low wages at big-box retail stores on Black Friday.

In a press conference outside the Midway Walmart, activists outline plans to protest low wages at big-box retail stores on Black Friday.

On Black Friday, will you shop for doorbusters? Or protest union-busters?

Twin Cities labor activists have announced their plans for the unofficial kickoff of the holiday shopping season, which in recent years also has become a day of action for unions and worker-advocacy groups fighting back against big-box retailers’ crazy hours, frenzied working conditions and poverty-level wages.

Plans for Nov. 29 in the metro area include a march to the Midway Walmart in St. Paul and, potentially, a strike among workers who clean area Target stores, with picketing outside the retailer’s downtown Minneapolis location.

In addition to calling out big-box stores for their track record of suppressing workers’ organizing rights, Minnesota activists will use Black Friday to amplify calls to raise the state’s minimum wage – a top priority for unions during the 2014 state legislative session.

“We’re going to take a stand on Black Friday to support a higher minimum wage,” TakeAction Minnesota organizer Jen Arnold said at a press conference Nov. 12 outside the Midway Walmart.

TakeAction is part of a coalition of groups organizing the protests that also includes Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, Local 1189 of the United Food and Commercial Workers and OUR Walmart, a growing group of associates nationwide organizing to improve working conditions at the world’s largest retailer.

logoKeeping pressure on Walmart

Local members of OUR Walmart will lead a march from the Gordon High School parking lot, 1212 University Ave. W., to a demonstration outside the Midway Walmart at University and Pascal. The march will begin at 11 a.m.; the protest will continue until 1 p.m.

[Click here to RSVP for the march on Facebook.]

A protest at the same location on Black Friday last year drew more than 200 people. Events nationwide yielded real improvements in Walmart’s scheduling practices – a victory that gave OUR Walmart momentum to carry out a series of strikes that continued in the weeks leading up to Black Friday 2013.

Mike Ahles, a Walmart associate from Sauk Centre, said he joined OUR Walmart after working three-plus years for poverty-level wages.

“We have helped to make Walmart the successful company it is today,” Ahles said. “That’s why I support the effort to tell Walmart it’s time to stand behind their associates. We make Walmart happen.”

CTUL gives Target deadline

Workers who clean Target stores, meanwhile, will picket on Black Friday outside the company’s downtown Minneapolis store, located at 10th Street and Nicollet Mall, if management does not respond by Thanksgiving to their demands for “a fair wage, a voice on the job and a path to form a union,” according to CTUL, the local advocacy group for low-wage workers.

It would be the third strike staged by workers who clean Target this year.

Target does not directly employ workers who clean its stores, But that does not absolve the retailer of responsibility for poverty-level wages paid by its subcontractors, CTUL member Maricela Flores, an employee of Carlson Building Maintenance who works inside a Target store, said at the Nov. 12 press conference.

“Every evening at work I am surrounded by a wealth of food and clothes, yet at $8 an hour I cannot afford to provide for my own family,” Flores said.


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