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NEW: Protesters Descend on Central Mass Walmarts

Friday, November 23, 2012

 

Protesters outside the Worcester Walmart store / Lily Huang

On Black Friday – the busiest shopping day of the year – labor and community allies descended on the Walmart locations in Northborough and Worcester as part of a nationwide mobilization of community support for striking Walmart workers. The local actions were undertaken to educate customers about Walmart Associates’ fight for respect in the workplace.

Employees of the world’s largest retailer have taken action at warehouses and retail stores across the country in recent weeks, walking off the job to protest low wages, unsafe working conditions, and the company’s continued attempts to silence workers’ voices on the job. From hour reductions to outright termination, Walmart has retaliated against the workers, prompting a formal federal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

"We're standing up at all the Wallmarts in Massachusetts and saying the community is with the workers and we will stand behind them to improve their conditions," said Russ Davis, executive director at Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, a coalition of labor, community, faith, and student organizations focused on workers' rights.

The Black Friday protests came on the heels of statewide actions just a month ago, where delegations of concerned customers and community leaders fanned out to Massachusetts Walmart locations to demand an end to the retail giant’s retaliation against its employees. Walmart has yet to respond to the public outcry, inciting Black Friday protests nationwide.

Protesters outside the Northborough Walmart store / Lily Huang

Walmart workers from across the country have come together to form the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). OUR Walmart members are demanding basic rights on the job – including fair wages and benefits, safe working conditions and the right to organize. In Massachusetts, support for this effort is being coordinated by the Massachusetts Stands Up to Walmart campaign – a coalition of workers, community organizations, and faith and labor leaders that led the successful effort to halt Walmart’s planned expansion into the Greater Boston Area.

However, Davis said the protests on Friday and the revolt by workers that they represent goes beyond the retail giant to the bigger problems underlying the current state of worker relations and employment practices in the country as a whole.

"It's not just Walmart," he said. "It's about what's wrong the economy."

 

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