Will Black Friday Be Blue for Wal-Mart?
We spoke with strike organizers and African-American employees who plan to picket for change.
Dominic Ware, a part-time associate at the Wal-Mart in San Leandro, Calif., was also part of the same Wednesday protest, which drew about 200 picketers to the company's headquarters. The 25-year-old makes $8.25 an hour working in the store's parking lot helping customers to their cars and handling carts. He told The Root the job "seemed like a good opportunity to work my way up." Now he says he is having second thoughts because it has been almost a year and he is still waiting to be hired full time with benefits, something he said he was promised.
Ware, who is responsible for two of his brother's children, said he also took the job to set an example "that hard work can get you somewhere."
Harris said so many African-American men are expected to fail in life and choose the wrong path that it is disheartening "when you try to do right, and you work for a company that gives you nothing. That's the reason why so many young black males go to the streets. I am not making an excuse for it. I'm just saying these corporate companies make it so hard on you to make a living, you feel like your options are so low."
Columbia University professor and Colorlines.com contributor Dorian Warren told Salon the walkouts were a pivotal moment for Wal-Mart workers' efforts to organize the staunchly union-free corporation.
Those efforts are gaining support, with several groups committing to stand in solidarity with workers, including ColorofChange.org, which exists to strengthen black America's political voice. Executive director Rashad Robinson told The Root that it's not just jobs for which they are fighting. "We can campaign for more jobs, but we want jobs that are going to help move people into the middle class or give people a living wage," he said. He added that "unless everyday people stand up and support them and the government works to raise minimum wage and put greater regulations on corporations that misuse workers, we're going to continue to be in a situation where poor folks are held at the bottom and rich folks just get richer."
Pastor Edwin Jones of Living Faith Baptist Church and International Ministries said if it comes down to a Black Friday strike, he will rally supporters. The pastor, who has been very vocal in his hometown of Washington, D.C., about the prospect of Wal-Mart moving in, said, "If our calls continue to be ignored and rebuffed, we will be going to stores with workers on Black Friday to call for change."
Julie Walker is a New York-based freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.