Wal-Mart strikes are occurring around the country, but you need not be one of the company’s under-compensated employees to participate. Here are five ways you can support Wal-Mart workers in their quest for economic justice:
1. Join Them!
Nothing demonstrates support for striking workers more than actually showing up yourself. Not only do the workers appreciate your display of solidarity, but also the increased turnout signifies to bystanders that this is a legitimate problem worthy of everyone’s concern.
On Black Friday, a record 1,500 protests will take place at Wal-Marts across the country. Though not every location will necessarily have striking workers participating in the event, each protest will educate consumers about the evils of the corporation and show even the workers who stay on shift that citizens support them earning a living wage.
Even if you thought you’d never be caught dead at a Wal-Mart, particularly on the busiest shopping day, it’s always turns out to be much more fun joining the activist crowd outside than fighting the consumer crowd inside. Search BlackFridayProtest.org to find the nearest Walmart strike event near you.
2. Culture Jam
For those daring enough to enter Wal-Mart’s front doors, here’s a clever – and tiny bit sneaky – way to inform customers about the company’s unethical practices. 99 Pickets, a pro-labor blog aligned with the Occupy movement, has created price cards and banners that can easily be slipped in to replace Wal-Mart’s existing signage.
In what the blog calls a “rebranding” campaign, rogue protesters can print out the appropriately sized signs at home and then switch them out with more honest slogans. With little effort, a sign that talks about “low prices” now informs shoppers about the store’s “low wages” instead.
While it’d be ridiculous to pretend the signs will remain in place forever, they blend in well enough to go undetected by management for sufficient time to spread the message to patrons and workers who could use your support.
3. Don’t Shop There
It may seem like a no-brainer suggestion, but don’t do it. Just don’t give your money to a company that underpays and mistreats its employees, no matter what kind of “deal” Wal-Mart advertises.
Some people mistakenly believe that the way to support Wal-Mart workers is to shop there more, but your spending will sadly not earn the employees higher wages. As various economists have pointed out, Wal-Mart can afford to give significant raises to all of its employees already without putting much of a dent in its massive profits.
Better yet, don’t just skip shopping at Wal-Mart, shop nowhere on Black Friday. Some organizations have challenged the retail holiday norm by dubbing the day “Buy Nothing Day.” It’s a good opportunity to reject consumer culture altogether.
4. Sponsor a Fired Striker
When employees attempt to unionize or strike for improved wages and working conditions, Wal-Mart is notorious for firing them, not only as punishment, but also as a warning to their colleagues that any talk of unionizing will not be tolerated. Though these illegal actions are then subject to multiple lawsuits, Wal-Mart has gotten away with it often enough to continue the practice.
If you have extra money — you’re not spending it at Wal-Mart after all – consider donating it to former Wal-Mart employees who were terminated for striking. The United Food and Commercial Workers has developed a program that pays these fired Wal-Mart workers to continue attempting to organize workers. These individuals risked – and lost – their jobs and deserve a living wage for their courage to stand up to the corporate giant. Contribute to the cause here.
5. Sign Petitions
If you can’t be there to shout your discontent at Wal-Mart in person, make sure your voice is still heard. Care2 has a variety of petitions relating to Wal-Mart that could use your support:
- Demand that Wal-Mart pay their employees fair wages rather than expecting them to accept charity.
- Request that President Barack Obama meet with Wal-Mart workers to hear their concerns.
- Ask Wal-Mart not set up shop in a city where the majority of residents don’t even want it.
- Tell off Wal-Mart for firing a woman who reported that a dog was locked in a hot car.
Photo Credit: Brave New Films