WASHINGTON - Walmart workers, the nation's labor leaders, and community leaders from all across the country called a press conference here yesterday where they announced plans to turn the busiest holiday shopping day of the year into one of the largest mobilizations of workers in U.S. history.
Organizations representing tens of millions are throwing their support behind underpaid and abused Walmart workers who are planning strikes, walkouts and demonstrations at Walmart stores from coast to coast on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the holiday season.
Amid spontaneous strikes and protests already breaking out at Walmarts in many cities, the labor and community leaders declared here yesterday their intention to pull off one of the largest mobilizations of U.S. working families ever when the Walmart workers walk out next week.
"Count on the full support of the millions of working people who belong to our unions," declared Richard Trumka, president of the 13 million member AFL-CIO at the press conference yesterday.
"The scale of support and nationwide activity being planned for Black Friday is unlike anything we've seen in recent history. Black Friday is destined to become a Labor Day, not of picnics but of action for workers," said Peter Dreier, Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles and author of The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. Dreier joined the assembly of labor, community, civil rights, on-line organizing and other leaders at the press conference.
"As income inequality climbs to historic levels and families are increasingly pushed to the margins, working families are coming together to demand better," said Dreier. "This year," he predicted, "the day after Thanksgiving will be remembered not as the busiest shopping day of the year but as the day Americans took action to demand that the country's largest employer pay workers a livable wage and play a part in improving our economy."
"The fight for better pay, full time work and an end to illegal retaliation against workers who fight for a better life isn't just a Walmart workers issue," said Trumka.
"It's a family issue, it's a women's issue, it's an immigrant rights issue, a student issue, an environmental protection issue and it's a consumer issue - above all it's an issue of fairness. The 13 million members of the AFL-CIO stand in lockstep with the Walmart workers."
Tiffany Beroid, a Walmart worker active with the non-union group of Walmart associates who call themselves OUR Walmart, interrupted in the middle of the press conference to announce breaking news that the NLRB was prosecuting Walmart for illegal firings of workers who went out on strike last June.
"This is such good news," she said. It is great to know that we actually have the government of this country behind us."
The decision to prosecute Walmart was made by Richard F. Griffin, Jr., only recently confirmed by the Senate as President Obama's nominee to the position of General Counsel of the NLRB.
MoveOn.org, a huge national online organization that supports an array of progressive causes, has thrown its full support to the Black Friday organizing drive.
"Our 8 million members stand in solidarity with Walmart workers for a very simple reason: hardworking people deserve to be able to get by," said Anna Gallana, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action. "Our members will be out in force on Black Friday exposing Walmart's poverty wages, dangerous working conditions and illegal retaliation."
Photo: "We shall not be moved." OUR Walmart members from all across the country participating in peaceful civil disobedience in front of Walmart's office in Washington D.C. Facebook page.