Six hardy activists held signs outside the Concord NH Walmart store this morning in solidarity with workers calling for higher pay and more respectful working conditions. The “Black Friday” protest was one of many across the country intended to put pressure on the nation’s largest employer and the world’s largest retailer, which has built a business model on the lousy labor standards faced by its workers and those who produce the products it sells.
According to Making Change at Walmart, most of the company’s workers earn less than $25,000 a year. Wages are so low that 42% of the company’s Massachusetts workers are eligible for subsidized health insurance, according to figures generated by the state’s Center for Health Information and Analysis.
The Black Friday protests were coordinated by Making Change at Walmart, a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), it unites Walmart employees, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, community organizations, women’s advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is a vital priority for the economic health of our communities. Making Change works closely with OUR Walmart, an organization of employees, many of whom have taken risky actions to insist on a more respectful work environment.
It’s a busy season for “Days of Action.” One focused on preserving Social Security will be held next Tuesday. Another, focused on solidarity with fast food workers, will be held Thursday, December 5. In addition to supporting the efforts of workers at low-wage retail chains and fast food restaurants, the actions can also boost support for legislation to raise the minimum wage at the national and state levels.
In New Hampshire, where the legislature abolished the state’s minimum wage in 2011, a bill to raise the wage for the state’s lowest workers in two steps to $9 an hour will be introduced in January.
Walmart can afford to raise wages. Citing sources such as the annual Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, the web site “The Walmart 1%” says the six wealthiest Waltons, the heirs to Walmart founder Sam Walton, have a net worth of $144.7 billion and that the family has as much wealth as 42% of the American population added together.