The traditional shopping rush today has another traditional element — the effort by OUR Walmart to use the day to demonstrate in its campaign to improve pay and working conditions at Walmart, the giant retailer.

Today, in cities across the county, Walmart workers and dozens of allied groups are joining together in a united call for “$15 and full-time” for the millions of hardworking associates who are struggling to put food on the table this holiday season on Walmart’s poverty pay and inconsistent hours. Today’s actions, outside a dozen Walmart stores across the nation, comes on the heels of a more than two-week fast by 1,400 people, including hundreds of Walmart workers, many of whom are working this holiday season, including Jasmine Dixon, a mother of two in Denver Colorado and Lisa Pietro, a grandmother in Winter Haven, Florida. This is the fourth year of Black Friday actions by OUR Walmart and the biggest coalition yet – with more than twenty-two different organizations partnering in the actions.

OUR Walmart Black Friday actions are taking place at hundreds of stores across the country today including large crowds expected in: New York City, Tampa, Washington, DC, Miami, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, Seattle, Portland and Detroit. More than 200,000 have signed petitions calling on Walmart to change. You can follow along using the hashtag #Fastfor15 and learn more at: http://protests.blackfriday.

…”This Thanksgiving, I worked at Walmart for the third year in a row because I worry about becoming homeless again like I was when Walmart forced me to taken an early, unpaid maternity leave,” said Jasmine Dixon, a Walmart employee in Colorado. “But I deserve more than such a low wage that my family and I still have to rely on food stamps and donations. Walmart needs to learn to respect us as people who work hard every day and stop taking advantage of us.”

This week, OUR Walmart released company testimony to the public for the first time revealing Walmart’s surveillance of their workers fighting for $15 an hour and full-time work in the wake of Black Friday strikes in 2012 and the “Ride for Respect” in 2013. In addition to closely monitoring the lawful labor rights activism of its associates on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, as the company faced a wave of bad publicity and negative same store sales, Walmart enlisted military industrial giant Lockheed Martin to spy on its workers and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to gather intelligence on protests. 

No word if Walmart has demonstrators out and about Arkansas stores today. If you spot any, send a note.

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UPDATE: Walmart PR is on the job. They sent a statement in response (also asked that it be noted that OUR Walmart group, which is not seeking to represent Walmart employees, gets financial backing from a union,. Walmart knows  that the word “union”  is equivalent to a curse in this neck of the woods)

“We know it takes quality associates to give our customers a great shopping experience and we’re proud of the wages and benefits package we offer. Our average full time hourly associate earns more than $13 an hour in addition to the opportunity for quarterly cash bonuses, matching 401k and healthcare benefits. Walmart is investing $2.7 billion over this year and next in wages, education and training for our associates because we know they make the difference.”   

Since Walmart mentioned it, I think it’s worth noting the concerted effort by big business to diminish the power of unions is a single major contributor to the declining earning power of the American family. So thanks for that, too, Walmart. And thanks for making billions that the silver spoon heirs of the company are using to destroy labor in American classrooms, too. Note that Walmart heirs get advantageous tax rates on billions in Walmart dividend earnings for which they have little to no hand in making.

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PS: Costco, unavailable in Arkanas but open in Memphis, welcomes union employees. It also scores a higher profit margin than Walmart’s warehouse stores, with better quality inventory.