“Black Friday” Protests Against Walmart in Albuquerque: A Photo Essay

Solidarity_walmart

By DAVID CORREIA

Sam Walton founded Walmart in 1962. Today his trinket-selling retail outlet is the world’s third largest corporation and the largest employer in the United States with earnings last year in excess of $16 billion. Walton’s children dominate Forbes’s list of the richest Americans. Christy Walton is the sixth richest American worth nearly $28 billion. Jim Walton, at number seven on the list, is valued at just under $27 billion. At number eight on the list, Alice Walton is valued at more than $26 billion. S. Robson Walton is the poorest member of the Walton family. His $26 billion worth places him just above New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at number nine on the list.

That wealth has been made on the backs of the more than 2.2 million Walmart workers worldwide. In the U.S., the average Walmart employee works less than 28 hours per week, makes $8.81 an hour and doesn’t qualify for benefits.

Despite these immiseration wages, none of the 8,500 Walmart or Walmart-affiliated stores in the U.S. are unionized. A group called “OUR Walmart,” however, is working to change that. Backed by a number of unions, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, OUR Walmart organized a walkout at a Los Angeles Walmart on October 9 of this year. Walmart workers then struck in dozens of other stores around the country. Protesters picketed company headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Last week, in reaction to the UFCW and OUR Walmart’s plans to organize Black Friday protests at 1,000 Walmart locations, Walmart filed a protest against the UFCW with the National Labor Relations Board (Wal-Mart-letter-to-UFCW). The complaint alleges that the actions would disrupt the busiest shopping day at Walmart stores.

The NLRB, however, made no ruling ahead of Black Friday. As a result, protests went on.  In Albuquerque, the New Mexico Federation of Labor organized a protest at the Walmart Supercenter at Carlisle and Menaul.

Protestors distribute signs as they prepare for a Black Friday protest outside a Walmart supercenter in Albuquerque. Photo by David Correia
Ellen Robinson donned the hat she brings to all protests and stationed herself at the main entrance to the Walmart parking lot. “I’m here because I used to live in a moblie home park. My neighbor worked at Walmart. She made less money working at Walmart than she could have made on welfare.” Photo by David Correia
Greg Frazier (left), President of UFCW Albuquerque discusses strategy with protestors. UFCW, along with the New Mexico Federation of Labor, organized the Albuquerque protest. By 9 AM on Black Friday, more than four dozen protestors picketed along all parking lot entrances and exits. Photo by David Correia
Kelley Allen represents administrative and office workers at Sandia Labs in Albuquerque as President of Local 251 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU). “Walmart is vicious against those trying to organize” she said. “They pay notoriously low wages and provide no health insurance to most workers. Most of the workers at this Walmart qualify for Medicaid.” Photo by David Correia
Black Friday protestors stayed far away from Walmart’s main entrance where three APD cruisers and two posted uniformed officers blocked Walmart’s Carlisle/Menaul entrance during the Black Friday protests. The officers wandered away without comment when I asked if they were at the store because of the protests. A number of Walmart employees, however, who didn’t support the protest claimed that the police were posted at Walmart for “crowd control.” The parking lot, however, was so empty throughout the morning that protestors considered finding a busier location to protest. Photo by David Correia