Walmart warehouse workers in California in wildcat strike?

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Redwinged Blackbird's picture
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Oct 10 2012 21:59

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/walmart-workers-black-friday-strike_n_1954782.html

Walmart Black Friday Strike: Workers Threaten To 'Take Action' On Retailer's Busiest Day [UPDATE]

Employees at 28 Walmarts in 12 different cities walked out of work Tuesday, but things may get a whole lot worse for the biggest retailer in the U.S. come Black Friday.

United Food and Commercial Workers' Making Change At Walmart, the group behind the protesters alleging unfair labor practices by Walmart, has warned that the campaign will come to a head on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that's regarded as one of the biggest shopping days of the year, according to a conference call organized by the group Wednesday.

"We feel like if they refuse to listen to our proposition we will make sure that on Black Friday we will take action inside and outside of stores," said Colby Harris, 22, a Walmart worker from Dallas, Texas, and a member of OUR Walmart, a UFCW-backed worker organization closely affiliated with Making Change at Walmart. "We'll make it known that Walmart's deadline is Black Friday," he added.

The Black Friday protests could include any "non-violent action, from flash mobs to strikes to public awareness," Harris added.

David Tovar, Walmart VP of communications, countered the protesters' claims in an interview with The Huffington Post. "These strikes are an attempt by the unions to further their own political and financial agendas," he said, noting that the majority of Walmart's 1.4 million workers are pleased with their jobs. Tovar wouldn't comment on the possibility of Black Friday strikes.

"More than half of Walmart’s one million hourly store associates have an hourly wage at least $10.00 or higher," he said. "In fact, in many metropolitan areas in which we operate, our entry level start rates regularly exceeds that of new hires for comparable positions under the UFCW contracts."

Tovar also said that three quarters of Walmart's store management teams started out in hourly positions, noting that the company promoted 160,000 hourly workers last year.

If the protesters go through with the Black Friday strike, the move would be unprecedented and could cause a major headache for the retailer on a day when consumers traditionally wait in long lines outside stores for the best deals. But the activists have proven they're not afraid to break barriers. Before last Friday, no retail Walmart workers had ever gone on strike, United Food and Commercial Workers' Making Change At Walmart told The Huffington Post.

Still, this is far from the first time Walmart workers have butted heads with their employer. Current and former female Walmart workers filed one of the largest class action lawsuits in history earlier this year, accusing the retail giant of discriminating against women based on gender. The case was ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court. Echoes of that lawsuit persist, as the National Organization of Women has pledged to join the protests on Black Friday, the organization's president Terry O'Neill confirmed during Wednesday's conference call.

Also speaking on the call were Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, Pastor Edwin Jones of the Living Faith Baptist Church and International Ministries in Washington, D.C., and Hector Sanchez, executive director of Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. All three speakers reiterated their members' support for a Black Friday action to protest Walmart.

More recently, Walmart warehouse workers in Southern California marched 50 miles over six days to protest working conditions.

Still, if Walmart were to close on Black Friday, it may help the retailer avoid some dangerous situations. The discounts traditionally offered on the day have a history of inciting violence among shoppers. One woman was arrested last year after pepper-spraying 20 other customers waiting to purchase discounted Xbox video game consoles in order to "get an advantage."

Redwinged Blackbird's picture
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Oct 10 2012 22:02

Sooooo... Start salting/reaching out/planning now???

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Oct 10 2012 22:04

or at this point would it be called "peppering"?

tastybrain
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Oct 11 2012 05:32

I want to tell Wal Mart workers about this action but I also don't want to steer them towards U-fuck (as some comrades have termed UFCW)

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Oct 11 2012 12:23

I think one positive (highly unlikely) possibility might be that UFCW and UE will collide with one another at some future point in walmart organizing. Then the differences between them might become clear to many American workers, not just walmart workers. Of, course that's just wishful thinking wherein each side would honestly presents their ideas. A more likely scenario is that UFCW would use its superior size and resources to trounce UE in the event of a conflict.

Redwinged Blackbird wrote:
Sooooo... Start salting/reaching out/planning now???

I imagine hypothetically in an imaginary way that many of us have been salting different possible workplaces for a while and that it may be possible that if this were in fact to be the case that we would want to keep doing that. Reaching out / planning seem like good ideas, but how? As many have pointed out, we're in the odd position of wanting to encourage workers to take action while not encouraging UFCW.

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Oct 11 2012 12:25
syndicalist wrote:
Interesting, but here's where the whole question of worker involvement/participation comes into play. Something which we were discussing on the Dominos workers thread: http://corporateactionnetwork.org/campaigns/stand-up-live-better-october-10th/events

Here's what a ufcw piecard has to say about worker involvement / participation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=586-OAFgd7E

Don't watch that if you've just eaten or if there are children present.

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Oct 11 2012 14:20
laborbund wrote:
syndicalist wrote:
Interesting, but here's where the whole question of worker involvement/participation comes into play. Something which we were discussing on the Dominos workers thread: http://corporateactionnetwork.org/campaigns/stand-up-live-better-october-10th/events

Here's what a ufcw piecard has to say about worker involvement / participation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=586-OAFgd7E

Don't watch that if you've just eaten or if there are children present.

Aw, I want to shake the hand of my union president and get a groovy t-shirt. I think when they got to that point, the dinner came out.

That said, there is something about recognizing the work of others. Even if it seems like a "feel good" sorta thing. People lkike to know that their efforts aren't wasted.

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Oct 11 2012 16:23
laborbund wrote:
Redwinged Blackbird wrote:
Sooooo... Start salting/reaching out/planning now???

I imagine hypothetically in an imaginary way that many of us have been salting different possible workplaces for a while and that it may be possible that if this were in fact to be the case that we would want to keep doing that. Reaching out / planning seem like good ideas, but how? As many have pointed out, we're in the odd position of wanting to encourage workers to take action while not encouraging UFCW.

Maybe form relationships with people who work there? And tell them yourself why UFCW sucks, all while encouraging them to take action? IDK from experience, tbh, I'm a labor-organizer-without-portfolio.

I think if anything does happen with u-fuck, and it's a complete disaster, at the very least, it will be a learning experience for what to expect from idiotic recuperating shit unions like them, no?

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Oct 11 2012 18:37
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I think if anything does happen with u-fuck, and it's a complete disaster, at the very least, it will be a learning experience for what to expect from idiotic recuperating shit unions like them, no?

As much as I applaud the optimism and the above might be true for the individual workers involved, to have any widespread impact it needs a movement that offers a positive alternative to the recuperation. Without that, it'll just further play into a perception that's already too widespread amongst the class about all unions and the labour movement in general.

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Oct 11 2012 18:52

I actually think this discussion by the ICC USA focusing on putting forward the positives of ways we can organize to keep the fight going, build the will to struggle, unify class forces, etc in such a struggle is fairly interesting, and might be helpful for folks.

http://en.internationalism.org/inter/160/verizon-discussion

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Oct 11 2012 20:04
Chilli Sauce wrote:
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I think if anything does happen with u-fuck, and it's a complete disaster, at the very least, it will be a learning experience for what to expect from idiotic recuperating shit unions like them, no?

As much as I applaud the optimism and the above might be true for the individual workers involved, to have any widespread impact it needs a movement that offers a positive alternative to the recuperation. Without that, it'll just further play into a perception that's already too widespread amongst the class about all unions and the labour movement in general.

very good point.

syndicalist
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Oct 12 2012 16:02

Not saying I have political agreement with this piece, but there are some interesting observations. Note change in tactical orientation, towards a policy of what I call controlled militancy:
http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/13979/why_walmart_why_now

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Oct 12 2012 20:09
Redwinged Blackbird wrote:
Maybe form relationships with people who work there? And tell them yourself why UFCW sucks, all while encouraging them to take action? IDK from experience, tbh, I'm a labor-organizer-without-portfolio.

So I guess the thing is I don't know how to reach out to workers I don't personally know. And I'm not trying to be snarky or anything like that, I'm saying I genuinely don't know. I don't have the interpersonal skills to go talk to walmart workers I don't know and tell them effectively that I want them to keep up the action because I think that's a good thing, but I want them to tell u-fuck to fuck off. "Hey, this strike is good. You should participate in it, but meanwhile make a distinction between different types of unions and reject UFCW." That's probably how I'd say it because, again, I have bad interpersonal skills when it comes to unfamiliar people, and don't know how to address them. When I'm organizing my own job I find it a lot easier because I get to know my coworkers and have many chances to talk to them. I can form somewhat long term relationships with them and find out what issues they might have. When its not my workplace, and I don't personally know the workers, I turn to shit. So if you have any advice on how I might reach out to walrmart workers, and do it well (as opposed to awkwardly talking at them) please share it because I would be willing to do some outreach.

Also, I happened to drive by my local walmart today and noticed there are no picketers of any kind. No walmart workers, and no u-fuck members in solidarity even though they have quite a few members here. What is the situation where you live? Is UFCW not calling on its already organized members to put the pressure on?

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Oct 12 2012 20:45

Already organized how? Publicly?

Also, when we have solidarity demos in SF, we always make a point to go in and explain to the workers why we're there, sometimes giving them a letter or even a copy of Stuff Your Boss. That might be a good way to not only get a picket in front of your local Wal-Mart, but to begin those conversations.

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Oct 12 2012 20:46
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Is UFCW not calling on its already organized members to put the pressure on?

Would that surprise you? wink

syndicalist
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Oct 13 2012 06:19
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Meet the Crawfish-Peeling Guestworkers Who Inspired Walmart Walkouts
http://www.yesmagazine.org

How a few courageous workers in small-town Louisiana sparked nationwide actions demanding better wages and working conditions for those who pick, pack, stock, and sell the mega-retailer’s products.

http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/meet-the-crawfish-peeling-guestworkers-who-inspired-walmart-walkouts

syndicalist
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Oct 16 2012 14:52

I suspect what would make this interesting, from a radical point of view, would be how independent the workers could maintain the the nominally independent structures such as WWU.
It's doubtful, but this would be an area of contestation between workers and bureaucrats.

One would think if any sort of workers organization recognition is ever won, the meat and potatoes results would be similar to what occurred in electrical manufacturing (GE, Westinghouse) back in the 1930s-early 1940s. I use this as a reference because of the size Walmart only. back then, there was minimal financial gains (some), but bunches of dignity issues and committee/union recognition by company. I suspect this would be the minimal program type stuff that would open the door to other things down the road. Just speculating with no first hand knowledge here of this struggle.

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Feb 1 2013 05:00

new developments: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/business/labor-union-agrees-to-stop-picketing-walmart.html?hp&_r=0

Again, I feel really conflicted about this. I hate the labor board and also hate u-fuck, but I also feel like walmart workers are losing because of this...

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Jun 3 2013 21:19

Just got an email from a liberally "sign this petition" organisation claiming that there's been another small strike wave within Wal-Mart with hundreds of workers out this time. Anyone hear anything about this?

syndicalist
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Jun 4 2013 00:21
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Just got an email from a liberally "sign this petition" organisation claiming that there's been another small strike wave within Wal-Mart with hundreds of workers out this time. Anyone hear anything about this?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/29/walmart-protest-movement_n_3354735.html

http://www.thenation.com/blog/174551/walmart-workers-launch-first-ever-prolonged-strikes-today

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Jun 4 2013 06:25

Thanks S!

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Jun 8 2013 08:19

If you read between the lines in the news stories, whether from bourgeois or activist sources, it's disingenuous to call these strikes. OURWalmart members, some of whom work at Walmart and others who don't, have been caravaning to Bentonville, Arkansas for the Walmart corporate shareholders meeting that's occurring right now. Apparently a few actual workers from Walmart stores have left work to travel to Bentonville, claiming "Unfair Labor Practices" and saying they are "on strike." There are activist appeals going round right now, asking the "community" to help escort these "striking workers" back to their shifts at their stores, to bear witness so there is no retaliation, when they return from Arkansas.

Sorry, y'all, but I find this to be toothless activistism at its worst. I would happily stand to be corrected by anyone with more on-the-ground knowledge about this.

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Sep 18 2013 21:13

From today's Metro Washington DC Council AFL-CIO News:

Union City wrote:
LRAA Override Fails; “We’ll Be Back,” Supporters Vow: Living wage supporters promised to hold District leaders accountable at the ballot box after they failed to override DC Mayor Vincent Gray’s veto of the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) yesterday. “We’ll be back!” chanted dozens of activists who had crowded the Council chambers for the 7-6 vote; voting against the override were David Catania (I- At Large), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large). Bonds had voted for the bill in July. At a spirited rally on the Wilson Building steps before the vote, workers and community leaders said though they knew their chances of winning this battle were slim, they had in a sense already won by “changing the terms of the debate” and forcing the issue of a living wage front and center. Council members Orange, Wells and Catania have all introduced proposals to hike the minimum wage for all D.C. workers from the current $8.25 to anywhere from $10.25 to $12.50 an hour. “This vote sends a message to legislators in cities and towns across the country,” said Sarita Gupta, Jobs with Justice and American Rights at Work executive director, underlining the vote’s national impact. “Residents will continue to speak out and demand fair wages for workers in their city. This fight in D.C. is just the beginning.” Added Metro Washington Council President Jos Williams, "While we thank those who stood with workers, those who did not must know that their actions will have consequences."

This is the same failed strategy as Wisconsin: wait for the next electoral season and pine your hopes on voting the bad guys out. Phrased differently, when a lobbying effort fails, turn to the ballot box -- and cross your fingers for years in waiting for the state to come to the rescue. And remember that UFCW's headquarters are in DC.

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Oct 19 2013 18:15

Hey, is this a wildcat or an SEIU thing? " In protest of paltry hours and defiance of firings, over 80 Wal-Mart workers in Hialeah, Fla., walk off the job"
http://www.salon.com/2013/10/18/breaking_wal_mart_workers_on_strike_in_florida/

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Oct 18 2013 22:04

notice the lack of OURWalmart placards in the press photo!

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Oct 19 2013 05:10

Watch this video:

It's not scripted at all. It shows working class militancy, anger and spontaneity. All of which are the anti-thesis of the caution of UFCW front groups.

But the proof is that there's not a singe white college-educated piecard schmoozing with the cops and telling the strikers to "behave and go back to work," nor are there any Democratic Party politicians or long-haired preachers lining up to politely get arrested. Just original signs made by the strikers themselves, rather than the lames ones OurWalmart had designed by a Madison Avenue PR firm.

It can't be forgotten that the workers from the Hialeah Gardens, Florida Walmart store were sent by OurWalmart to the stockholders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas in the fall of 2012. But with this beautiful wildcat action, it looks like the genie has gotten out of the bottle and the UFCW wasn't around to suppress the workers' class anger.

huli
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Oct 19 2013 15:48

Hieronymous, I hate to mention it - because this is a great video - but at around 48 seconds you can see a couple of purple-shirted, messenger-bag wearing, printed-placard-toting dullards in the background looking for all the world like union staffers.

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Oct 19 2013 18:15
huli wrote:
Hieronymous, I hate to mention it - because this is a great video - but at around 48 seconds you can see a couple of purple-shirted, messenger-bag wearing, printed-placard-toting dullards in the background looking for all the world like union staffers.

maybe they showed up after the walkout was already in full swing?

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Nov 7 2013 05:15

With these press release-style stories, it's hard to tell fact from fiction.

Here's something that came out today on Salon.com called "BREAKING: California Wal-Mart workers strike today, following stunning Florida victory."

But at least it's honest in a few places:

Salon wrote:
Today’s strike follows a one-day October 18 walkout . . . by Hialeah, Florida Wal-Mart employees protesting insufficient hours. Activists said that action was embraced, but not instigated, by OUR Walmart.

In that Florida action, Walmart workers won several concessions after 80 workers went out on an actual wildcat strike. This was more impressive than any of the media-savvy events organized by OUR Walmart/UFCW union staff, which don't involve the agency of rank-and-file workers in any way.

But the article is honest when it says that so far only about 500 workers, out of a workforce of 1,300,000, have been involved. It's not even "minority unionism" when only 0.04% of Walmart workers participate.

But hopefully more spontaneous actions will occur, based on the militant initiative of the workers themselves.