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Like workers who fasted at Reagan National Airport during one of the busiest travel days of the year, employees of the Walmart at 99 H St. NW and local community members will forsake food this Black Friday to protest what they believe are low wages and unfair labor practices.
Capitalizing on a day which Walmart historically pioneered as a prime sales opportunity (so much so that its stores have opened on the night of Thanksgiving), more than 100 people are expected to begin the fast in D.C. at 9 a.m. on Friday, while hundreds across the U.S. follow suit as part of a “nationwide day of action” that will conclude a 15-day-long campaign. Advocates say they hope to highlight the plight of Walmart workers “who go hungry every day because of low wages and hours.”
“There is an urgent crisis at Walmart: Employees and their families are going hungry, trying to subsist on low wages and reduced hours but unable to even buy basic groceries,” says Cindy Murray, a regional organizer, in a statement.
OUR Walmart (aka Organization United for Respect at Walmart), a nonprofit, has coordinated the 15-day campaign. Protesters are calling attention to the divergence between the company’s billion-dollar annual profits and its worker’s comparatively small wages—not to mention those of millions of other U.S. families.
In addition to following wage-protests by airport and fast-food workers, the fast comes about a year before D.C. residents may approve a $15-hour minimum wage through a ballot initiative next November—a policy labor supporters argue would help workers afford expensive rents and others high costs of living like food.
Update 1:55 p.m.: A spokesperson for Walmart has provided City Desk with the following statement in regards to the planned protest: “We know it takes quality associates to give our customers great shopping experience and we’re proud of the wages and benefits package we officer. 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 a difference.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery