********** UPDATE **********
I was contacted by someone, who was contacted by the attorney of the woman who was arrested yesterday to not post any photos of her being arrested, so as a courtesy I removed the photo and their names. I firmly believe that Walmart management are behind the arrests. It appears that the only the statement the police pointed to as vanadalism mentioned the name Walmart. I think the store manager thinks he will look better to his boss if at least something happened to make the demonstrators look like hooligans. But I think we all know the real criminals are the ones who are paid off by Walmart to look the other way when it comes to the treatment of workers.
Today another Black Friday is about to come to a close and with that … the infamous National Black Friday Walmart Strike of 2012. Cristina Trutanich organized today’s strike at the 5th street, Long Beach store . She heard about the strike watching , The Young Turks, a group of young investigative journalists that have a news show on Current t.v. She is not an employee of Walmart but felt the need to help and show her support. Even though Walmart employees did not walk off their jobs, they knew what was happening outside and that a group of sometimes noisy demonstrators were there for them. The group of about 50, made up of Occupy Long Beach members and other sympathizers chanted anti Walmart slogans and sang Christmas carols with a Walmart twist. There was even a one hour meditation outside the store.
I interviewed several people exiting the store and asked them how they felt about the possibility of Walmart workers walking off the job during one of the busiest shopping days of the year, andl of those I spoke to, did not know about a strike or even why Walmart workers were upset, so in case you have been sleeping in the same cave as these people, let me break it down for you.
Walmart has been in trouble for years and has too many lawsuits to even count, from forcing employees to work off the clock, no overtime pay, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, to severe injuries at their warehouses, including heat exhaustion. Upper management is known for firing anyone who complains about poor work conditions. Do you know that taxpayers have been subsidizing Walmart’s low wages for years? Yes, you read that correctly, Walmart pays their employees such low wages that they qualify for government aide in the form of food stamps and health care. Walmart does offer health care but the premiums are so high, that most employees can’t afford it.The 40% who are able to pay are about to be forced to pay 30% percent more, which will probably throw them on the public health care doles as well. Walmart workers are a perfect example of the phrase, ” working poor”. I wonder what Paul Ryan would say about that? The taxpayers are stuck with the tab, while the Walton family have more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans combined. Talk about your Welfare Queens!
OSHA has cited the warehouse in Ontario for several safety violations, that prompted a six-day march last September protesting conditions at Inland warehouses. Well, it seems that some Walmart employees have finally had enough and with the help of OUR Walmart, a labor organization created by the United Food and Commercial Workers, some of them have been walking off their jobs the past few weeks. Social media, NPR and CNN have been buzzing about just how many employees they thought might have the courage to leave their low wage jobs this Black Friday. Some shoppers I spoke with told me that if they didn’t like the pay then go ahead and strike… but not so fast. Walmart and anyone in business these days knows that jobs are hard to come by and that includes minimum wage ones. I don’t care what stats are coming out of Washington, the job market sucks.
The focus of this recent strike is to tell Walmart management to stop the retaliation against employees who speak out against poor work conditions. In response Walmart officials say the United Food and Commercial Workers is illegally interfering in the company’s business. Walmart made $15 billion last year and paid their CEO $18 million.
Cathy Youngblood, a hotel worker told me, ” I understand the paralyzing fear when a worker wants to speak out but can’t because companies like Walmart retaliates. I am here to stand in their place. Corporate hates to hear the word “abuse” but that goes on alot. Its all about corporate greed and how to make billions of dollars in profit and not take care of the workers. Walmart workers have done a good job reaching out to the public about their job issues.”
Another supporter, SiSi 99 who has a radio show on KCTY.org pointed out, ” Walmart employees want to be paid a minimum of $25,000 a year, that’s only $4,000 more than they get now. Walmart spends more than that per year, per employee buying up their own stock to prevent outside influence.”
I hate to admit that most people seemed indifferent about the struggles of a Walmart employee. They were there to get bargains. They really didn’t have time to listen. One man’s opinion really stood out for me though. He wouldn’t give me his name but as his son struggled to balance the new giant size flat screen television he just bought in Walmart on a Dollie, this guy wanted to know if he was able to get a bigger paycheck if Walmart workers got a raise. I asked him where he worked and he told me, the water and power company. I asked if he got benefits, maybe a pension and he laughed. ” yes but its never enough.” Complete disconnect.
For most of the day the head of security and his staff stood outside the entrance, making sure no one sneaked in, however some demonstrators managed to get by them and carried around their homemade “Walmart hurts employees” signs until they were quickly escorted back outside by management. The Long Beach police were called to come out several times but the police told the crowd that as long as they did not go inside the store or antagonize shoppers they could exercise their free speech…until …someone cracked open a box of Walmart brand chalk and “expressed” themselves on the sidewalk across the street from the store. Then things went a bit crazy for at least two of the demonstrators. I didn’t see anyone actually chalking the sidewalk, but by the time I got there, the offender had already been whisked away by police and I saw a woman being handcuffed, a bit roughly in my opinion. Witnesses told me that she was telling police to stop harassing the young woman who was chalking the sidewalk, and a female police officer grabbed her by the arms to restrain her. The crowd turned their attention to the scuffle and chanted “Shame! Shame! leave the girl alone.”
A few minutes later one of the officers asked the crowd who was in charge and they responded they all were. Not the answer he was looking for but I found it amusing. The visibly frustrated officer told the crowd that engaging in free speech was ok, but chalking the sidewalk is vandalism. Sharon Cotrell, a member of Occupy Long Beach refuted his statement citing a 1995 9th Circuit court decision that ruled “no chalk would damage a sidewalk.” The officer shot back that they (the 9th Circuit court) were not here today, so their ruling did not apply. What? Rules can be changed if the ones who make them are not present? How very Walmart is that logic?
There was consenses among the crowd to march over to the police station, so the Black Friday Walmart Strike of 2012 came to a close. Maybe the employees did not walk out today, but I bet there were many who did so ”in their mind”. Something tells me this fight is far from over…it’s really just begun.