Walmart workers have stepped up their Black Friday protests against the mega retailer with a 15-day fast for a $15 minimum wage and full-time schedules.
Over 1,400 Walmart workers and their allies are participating in the fast, organized by the recently relaunched OUR Walmart campaign. In the run-up to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving shopping frenzy, fasters are consuming a liquids-only diet for one to 15 days to draw attention to what they consider to be low wages and hours provided to Walmart workers.
The fast began last week and will culminate with Black Friday protests on November 27 at Walmart stores nationwide, including in Chicago and other Illinois cities.
"OUR Walmart's message to Walton heirs -- whose wealth has been greater than the bottom 42 percent of all American families combined -- is clear: while Walmart employees can barely put food on the table this Thanksgiving, Walmart continues to thrive as the largest supplier of groceries in the nation, while it lines the pockets of the Walton family with corporate greed," OUR Walmart said in statement. "Anything less than $15 and full-time is not enough for Walmart workers."
Hundreds of Chicago minimum wage workers and their supporters descended upon a West Side Food 4 Less store Saturday morning, demanding that the grocer give its employees a higher wage and the right to form a union.
Food 4 Less is owned by Kroger. The activists allege that Food 4 Less workers in Chicago are provided less money and fewer benefits than unionized Kroger workers across the country.
"We're asking them to respect Chicago, because Food 4 Less is union in California, and other Kroger banners are union as well, but for some reason they don't care enough about workers here," said Kristin Ryan, an organizer with United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881.
Walmart workers and their allies plan to take part in what they expect to be the largest Black Friday strikes and protests ever at 1,600 Walmart stores nationwide, including in Chicago and other Illinois cities.
Chicago voters might have an opportunity during the February municipal election to weigh in on a non-binding ballot referendum about paid sick leave for workers in the city.
The council's Rules Committee passed a resolution at its Tuesday meeting calling for an advisory ballot question on whether employers in Chicago should be required to provide their employees with paid leave in the event of an "illness or public health emergency." The full council could consider the proposal at its meeting this Wednesday.
Chicago Ald. Joe Moore (49th), one of the sponsors of the referendum resolution, discussed the measure at a forum on paid sick leave and other pro-worker initiatives held this morning at Roosevelt University.
"It's a great organizing tool for those who support paid sick leave," Moore said of the pending citywide referendum, also sponsored by Alds. Joe Moreno (1st) and Will Burns (4th). Moore said he is confident the measure will pass through the full council tomorrow.
Chicagoans in favor of making earned paid sick days a requirement for private employers in the Windy City delivered 25,000 petition signatures to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office on Thursday in support of the policy.
In March, Alds. Joe Moreno (1st) and Toni Foulkes (15th) introduced an ordinance — backed by the Earned Sick Time Chicago Coalition and most of the council's 50 aldermen — that looks to ensure all workers in the city currently without paid sick leave are able to take time off to care for their own illnesses, a sick family member or attend medical appointments. Twenty-four other aldermen have co-sponsored the measure, which is pending in the council's Committee on Workforce Development and Audit.
"We need to get this passed now because it's about time," said Melissa Josephs, director of equal opportunity policy at Women Employed. "Forty-two percent of city [private sector] workers, almost half a million, don't have any sick time ... That's why we're dropping off these signatures now to let the mayor know there's a need."
Hundreds demonstrated outside Walmart stores across the country on Black Friday to protest what they say are “poverty
wages” and poor working conditions for workers of the retail giant. Organizers with the group OUR Walmart say more than 110 people were arrested at various Black Friday demonstrations in
cities across the country, according to the protest organizers, in cities including Sacramento, St. Paul, Seattle and
Chicago. In total, demonstrations took place in 46 states across the
“We cannot wait any longer. That’s why I’m standing up
today – for my coworkers, my family and my community,” said Myron Bird, a
worker from Walmart’s Lakeview location in Chicago. Bird was arrested
with nine others at the Chicago store for participating in civil
disobedience and blocking the street.
workers and their supporters plan to hold 1,500 protests nationwide against the mega retailer on Black Friday, including actions in
Illinois, members of OUR Walmart announced on a conference call with reporters Thursday.
Organizers with OUR Walmart, a group that formed two years ago and is connected to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union,
are anticipating an even bigger turnout than last year's Black Friday
protests, which were attended by some 30,000 people at 1,000 Walmart
stores in 46 states.
“Black Friday 2013 will mark a turning point in American history,” said Dorian Warren, an expert on labor politics and an associate professor at Columbia University. “Fifteen hundred protests against Walmart is unprecedented. Working families are fighting back like never before, and have the support of America behind them."