Today is Black Friday and I’ll be striking outside the Walmart where I work while shoppers are snapping up the latest toys and cell phones for their gift lists.
For me, Walmart isn’t about gifts or giving or great deals. Far from it. It’s a symbol of my personal and economic desperation — working in a multi-billion dollar corporation that retaliates against employees who speak up for better work conditions and increased pay.
At Walmart, management has little respect for workers, whom they treat as replaceable. Even though the company publicly boasts that it schedules employees three weeks in advance, the truth is that they didn’t release the Black Friday schedules until ten days before Thanksgiving, wrecking holiday travel plans for lots of workers.
Every day I go to work, I wonder to myself, “Is this the day I’ll be fired?” The company’s chronic understaffing means we’re constantly being “written up” because we can’t meet the impossible quotas and expectations placed on us. When we try to keep up with the unrealistic demands, we’re rewarded with back problems and repetitive motion injuries, putting our jobs and employability even more at risk.
My base pay is just $10.40 an hour, even after working at Walmart for six years. And the company refuses to give most of us full-time hours, making our paychecks pretty meager. The low wages mean that my three broken teeth remain untreated by a dentist because, even though I have dental insurance, I can’t afford my copay. So I use Anbesol for my toothaches to make it through another shift.
I work hard unloading freight from boxes and stock Walmart’s shelves every day. For that, I deserve to afford the basics – a roof over my head, groceries in the kitchen and enough to see a dentist or doctor when needed.
Since so many businesses have adopted the Walmart model, good jobs are hard to find. I worry I can’t find one. I’m barely keeping my head above water, personally or financially.
The last thing I’d ever wish for my 21-year-old daughter is to some day have a job like mine. That dread has given me – and a lot of other workers – the courage to stand up against Walmart, because we’re tired, year after year, of having to demand better pay and full-time work. We’ve had enough. And we won’t be silent.
So if you’re near the Colfax and Wadsworth Walmart this morning, honk and let us know you see us, hear us and support us. Better yet, visit BlackFridayProtests.org to find out how you can help thousands of workers struggling to improve our lives. Best of all, pull off the road, park and stand with us in our effort to transform Black Friday from an annual, discounted shopping frenzy to a day of solidarity for workers who are getting a raw deal.