After Walmart workers went on strike in Seattle on Tuesday and in Los Angeles last week, on Wednesday workers walked off the job in Chicago at three store locations. Those workers will join supporters and other protesters at a rally at 4 p.m. central time.
After the strike in Los Angeles, activists and workers also took place in the largest act of civil disobedience against the company ever, with more than 50 getting arrested. The latest wave of strikes come after one that took place in Miami in October, the first work stoppage at Walmart since June. They come ahead of promises for further mobilization on Black Friday this year, echoing actions last year that drew around 400 strikers.
In response to the strikes in Seattle and Los Angeles, the company has insisted that a small percentage of its workers take part in the strikes because they feel the company provides “more opportunities for career growth and greater economic security for their families than other companies in America.”
The groups of strikers and protesters have been demanding a minimum of $25,000 a year for all workers, an end to retaliation against workers who strike or organize, and more full-time positions. Recent numbers show that the majority of the company’s in-store workforce made less than that figure last year, and its wages are so low that workers at one location consume about $1 million in public benefits to get by. It has been accused of firing or disciplining workers who go on strike and has admitted itself that it has told workers who looked into forming a union that doing so could mean their benefits disappear. While the company says the majority of its workers are full-time employees, surveys have found most locations hiring only temporary workers, and the lack of full-time employees so hurt its sales that it decided to add more for the holiday season.
Meanwhile, Walmart has joined a growing number of companies who have stretched Black Friday shopping so far that they will now open on Thanksgiving Day, denying those workers a chance to have dinner with their families. While these stores say the workers coming in on the holiday will be volunteers or temps, many retail workers already struggle to get the hours they need to survive and may have little choice.
By Bryce Covert