Don’t call it Black Friday anymore. The kickoff to the national holiday shopping frenzy has now officially merged with Thanksgiving day itself, with Walmart leading the Thanksgiving evening creep by opening its doors at 10pm on Thursday this week. And the Thursday night opening has given workers at over 1,000 Walmart stores planning a Black Friday strike even more reason to walk out from work.
The planned action has been in the works for some time, long before Walmart announced its Thursday evening opening. The strike comes after months of such walkouts that started in Los Angeles area stores and spread to Maryland, then Texas, for a total of nine states this fall. Workers say they are upset over much more than just having to leave their families on Thanksgiving evening.
“It’s a real hardship for me to go on strike. For those of us who live paycheck to paycheck every hour counts. All we’re doing is speaking out for change,” said Sara Gilbert, a manager at a Seattle Walmart who is protesting what she says are the retail giant’s retaliatory measures to silence workers who’ve raised their voices about working conditions. Since workers with OUR Walmart, a United Food and Commercial Workers union-backed organization, have spoken up about bad pay and inconsistent and unfair hours, they say they’ve been excluded and punished. She joined other Walmart workers in Seattle, Dallas and Oakland who went on strike last week.
Last week Walmart took its first formal steps to cracking down on this next phase of worker organizing by filing an official labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, charging that the walkouts threaten to disrupt its business and scare away shoppers. The NLRB is working to address the issue quickly, but in the meantime OUR Walmart is keeping up the pressure.