Long lines at retail stores on the day after Thanksgiving Thursday are common, but this year’s “Black Friday” will have a new twist.
Many of the lines at Wal-Mart stores across the country won’t be customers, but protesters instead.
A demonstration against the company’s treatment of its workers and even its effect on the economy is scheduled for the big-box chain’s North Charleston location on November 23, as well.
The two-hour protest starts at 10 a.m. this Friday at the corner of Centre Pointe Dr and Tanger Outlet Blvd.
The Charleston Central Labor Council and SC AFL-CIO are promoting the local demonstration, but neither group can take credit for it, says Erin McKee, who’s an officer with both groups.
“Ours is a just a response to the national tide of strikes, sit-outs and demonstrations at Wal-Mart across the country,” McKee says.
Over 1,000 Wal-Mart demonstrations are occurring nationwide over a nine-day period.
Wal-Mart’s unfair labor practices are a primary basis for the local rally, McKee says, offering its payroll as evidence.
The company employs 1.4 million Americans – more than any other company – but 80 percent of them are paid so little that they qualify for food stamps, and even though Wal-Mart clears over $15 billion in net profit every year.
The four primary shareholders of the corporation – children of its founder Sam Walton – rank among the 10 wealthiest Americans, however. Each one (Christy, Jim, Alice and S. Robson Walton) has over $26 billion in assets.
If the average wage of $8.81 an hour wasn’t bad enough, Wal-Mart is also credited with contributing to the high unemployment in the U.S.
Its import of products from China directly cost 196,000 American jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Wal-Mart is also responsible for 11 percent of the total trade deficit with China, too.
The end result of these poor labor practices affects not just Wal-Mart employees, but practically every taxpayer, as well. The annual costs of food stamps and Medicaid for Wal-Mart workers, as well as free and reduced-price lunches at school for their children, come to $2.66 billion, according to Good Jobs First.
That’s another basis for Friday’s demonstration. McKee says she hopes the rally will “explain to the taxpayers that these cheap prices are not cheap.”
A group known as OUR (“Organization United for Respect at”) Wal-Mart has caught flak from the corporation for promoting this Black Friday event, it says, and to the degree that OUR Wal-Mart has filed suit to protect its right to demonstrate.
Filed yesterday with the National Labor Relations Council, the charges specify threats the company made to employees should they participate in any demonstrations or strikes.
(See OUR Wal-Mart’s video, explaining the basis for Friday’s rallies, in the left column.)
The demonstration will end at noon. Early arrivers can join other participants at the nearby IHOP on Centre Pointe Dr.