“Are you ready to strike and refuse to work this Thanksgiving and Black Friday to protest Walmart's bullying?”

  That is this year’s rallying call from the Organization United for Respect – better known as OUR Walmart – as they try once again to convince Walmart associates across the county to strike on Black Friday.

  Formed in 2011, OUR Walmart is not a union; however, they receive financial support from the United Food and Commercial Union (UFCW). OUR Walmart is technically termed a “worker organization,” and joining requires a monthly fee of around $5. While worker organizations don’t have negotiating power, federal law permits worker organizations to speak out against employers without the threat of retaliation.

  OUR Walmart is seeking $15 an hour wages, full time hours and (most importantly, they say) more respect for its American workforce of 1.3 million.
  The six siblings who own the retail mega-giant, the Walton heirs, are one of the richest families in the world. Their company’s annual global revenue is nearly $480 billion, and a huge chunk of this is reaped during the holidays. The Waltons could offer a permanent $10,000 wage increase to 1 million associates by simply giving up their annual dividend pay-outs, claims OUR Walmart.

  But while OUR Walmart is gaining traction in places such as Los Angeles, where the first sit-down strike was held in company history on November 14, it’s footprint in Central Ohio is barely evident. Consider that a single Black Friday protest is scheduled for Columbus, at the Supercenter on Bethel Road. Those running the protest have called for bull horns and costumes.

  This doesn’t mean OUR Walmart’s presence in Central Ohio is not growing. An OUR Walmart Web site claims associates from 12 local Supercenters are demanding $15 an hour and full-time schedules.

  But when The Free Press asked representatives from both the UFCW and OUR Walmart whether any Central Ohio associates will actually strike on Black Friday, they said it wasn’t likely. UFCW spokesperson Jamie Way said it’s possible there are “silent” OUR Walmart associates in the area.
  “I know that Dayton and Cincinnati have events in the works,” she said, adding a possible sit-down strike might take place.

  Indeed, it appears several Dayton associates are ready to make a major statement to their bosses. On the facebook page for OUR Walmart Ohio there are pictures of Dayton associates holding placards demanding “respect and fair pay” and an end to “illegal retaliation” against OUR Walmart.

  Walmart has denied firing or intimidating OUR Walmart members, but there are scores of stories nationally where long-time associates were suddenly fired for minor infractions. In response, the National Labor Relations Board has filed charges against Walmart in over 13 states.

  The Waltons, who have successfully fought unionization for years, are apparently sweating this worker threat. They’ve established a “Labor Relations Hotline,” for instance, as managers are instructed to report on the mildest of employee dissent.

  Joining OUR Walmart shouldn’t be an automatic ticket to the unemployment line. The right to protest unfair working conditions is protected by the National Labor Relations Act.
  Preston Johnson is a twenty-something from the Seattle area who works third shift for Walmart as an overnight support manager. He joined OUR Walmart two years ago after dealing “with my fair share of unfair treatment.” He has walked on Black Friday in the past and plans on doing so again.

  “Like many of the associates who are standing up, I was able to stand up for some of the things that are wrong and correct those wrongs,” he said. “I am trying to convince many of my associates to walk out. I know they are scared of retaliation, but I will show them as being a manager it is okay to stand-up against unfair labor practices in our stores. We want to end the retaliation. We want to end unfair scheduling (40 hours one week, 8 the next), the low pay. But most of all, we want respect.”

  For more information on Black Friday protests go to BlackFridayProtests.org, which is run by OUR Walmart.

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