On Black Friday, hundreds of protestors, including union members, members of Occupy Wall Street and members of Occupy Bergen County joined Walmart employees in front of the Walmart store in Secaucus going on strike to demand more respect, better wages, improvements on the job and better benefits. Black Friday marked the second time in a week and in 50 years that retail workers went on strike against Walmart, the world’s largest private employer. The Black Friday strike took place in 28 stores across 12 states. Ten members of Occupy Bergen County, an organization formed last November in Teaneck in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, came to support the unions and strikers in Secaucus.
Since June this year, Walmart workers have been protesting the company’s attempts to silence employees who speak up against its manipulation of hours and benefits and discriminate against women and people of color. Workers have also complained of poor and hazardous working conditions in Walmart’s warehouses, for example, where, at one site, workers have not been given dust masks for protection despite repeated requests for them. The protest in Secaucus aimed to support Walmart employees at that location and others in cities across the nation such as Washington D.C., Chicago, Sacramento and Los Angeles, where the protests began.
Several youths representing New Jersey Steel Workers played instruments and chanted demands for Walmart workers—Treat employees fairly, improve working conditions, provide more job security. Criticism of Walmart was rampant. One protestor said, “The greed is unbelievable. The store was open on Thanksgiving Day, disrupting a holiday when everyone is supposed to celebrate being together. People had to work.”
Days before the Black Friday action, Walmart filed a National Labor Relations Board charge, alleging that workers’ pickets are illegal and urged a judge to shut them down. Labor groups have filed numerous charges with the NLRB accusing Walmart of threatening and punishing workers who opt to speak out against the company’s system and unfair practices. Walmart has also charged that the complaints from workers have come mainly from a minority, but those complaints have been substantiated by many employees who agree, for example, that wages are too low and that there is discrimination of workers.