Civil disobedience against Walmart has reached a new high (or low if you don’t like civil disobedience, or you like Walmart or something): 54 protesters were arrested late Thursday night in front of a controversial Walmart location in Los Angeles. The protest consisted of 500 activists, faced down by 100 cops.
The Chinatown store was already the site of protests in September when Walmart won the long fight to open one of their “Neighborhood Market” locations, which Walmart also refers to as one of their “smaller than we like to be, but at least we can squeeze them it into narrower buildings” locations.
The protest was the second major act of civil disobedience in the LA area over the past two days, the other being a walkout and protest in Paramount on Wednesday. The protesters called it a strike, despite the store staying open. There were no reported arrests in Paramount.
Do I even have to tell you what the protesters wanted? Working at Walmart is the worst. Information gathered by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) found that Walmart workers make 20 percent less than average for retail workers annually. That’s not 20 percent less than the average American, but 20 percent less than the average American who works at, say, Kohls or Home Depot.
To put it another way, Walmart claims that shopping at Walmart saves the average family $2,500 par year. But LAANE’s numbers show that working at Walmart, as opposed to any other retailer costs you $3,574 per year, which more than makes up for the savings. That’s why 70 percent of Walmart employees leave within the first year of working there. This causes everyone who works there to be inexperienced as well as miserable, which makes everyone who shops there have ashitty time, according to Forbes.
Walmart recently garnered headlines for denying thousands of longtime workers promotions to full-time status on account of that damned Obamacare. Then they got slapped with the rude awakening that, objectively speaking, everyone hates being in their horrible store. According to theACSI Retail and E-Commerce Report, they provide the most hated retail experience in America.
So they found it prudent to capitulate in September, allowing 35,000 part-time employees to take on full-time status. Yatzee for employees, right? Well, no. Walmart is so big it employs one percent of the American workforce, so 35,000 promotions only moves 2.5 percent of Walmart employees to full-time. Employees on the whole, still want to be paid a luxurious $25,000 a year, which is the protest movement's central demand.
Thursday's strike, if you can call it a strike when the union doesn’t have the power to close the store, or even put a squeeze on the majority of workers who are still willing to work, was led by an organization called Our Walmart. Our Walmart’s oft reported union ties stem from the fact that it is unabashedly a division of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the union that Walmart workers would likely join if this that’s how this movement plays out. Apart from arrest, protesters really are risking a lot, given that Walmart loves to retaliate against union agitators.
In September, 20 organized workers were laid off in what Our Walmart claimed was a retaliatory act aimed at sending a message to workers wanting to organize. That worked for awhile to mute protests, and intimidate potential strikers. At the time, Colby Harris a Walmart employee in Dallas told MSNBC, “People are scared because they see how Walmart retaliates. Not everyone has spoken out because of the reality of losing their jobs.”
Last night showed Our Walmart getting its momentum back. Walmart employee Anthony Goytia was one of the participants. On Facebook yesterday, he said that "The power went out at my house yesterday because I couldn't afford the bill.” He has become the poster child for this movement in Los Angeles: a father of three, he says he’s on track to make $12,000 this year, and that he has to donate plasma to feed his kids.
Employees are expected to strike on Black Friday this year, as they did last year, according to the Huffington Post. They're going to have to go into work early on Thanksgiving, and they certainly aren't getting paid time off for the holidays. Then again, neither are Kmart employees.