Teachers to protest Walmart on Black Friday

Teachers to protest Walmart on Black Friday
The North County Labor Alliance is organizing a Black Friday protest at the Walmart in Vista. Photo by Ellen Wright

North County Labor Alliance wants to highlight what they consider unfair working conditions

REGION — While many people use Black Friday to save on everything from stocking stuffers to electronics, teachers throughout North County are using the day to highlight what they consider unfair working conditions.

The North County Labor Alliance, a group made up of teachers, nurses, sheet metal workers and other laborers, are holding a peaceful protest outside of  Walmart to boycott the company’s treatment of employees.

Debbie Forward, communications director and internal organizer at the Palomar Faculty Federation, said the goal is to highlight the importance of unions in the American workforce and to support decent working conditions for Walmart employees.

She said Walmart was chosen among other chain retailers because of their treatment of employees and the income inequality between the Waltons, who own more than half the company, and their employees.

“The Waltons definitely represent the incredible income inequality nationally,” Forward said. “With the amount of money they make and don’t give back and what they pay their workers and what they pay themselves, there is just such a gross disparity between the two.”

Forward added that the Waltons have been supportive of privatizing education, which she and other teachers disagree with.

“They definitely get under teachers’ skin,” Forward said.

Tod Critchlow, co-chair at the NCLA, believes companies need to reinvest in their employees to help America’s economy.

“We are compelled to support Walmart workers because their employer’s low-paying model and gross inequity is immoral and holding our country back.  America is at its best when companies and businesses reinvest in the workers who build them,“ Critchlow said.

A Walmart spokesperson, Kevin Gardner, disagreed with Critchlow about the low pay model.

“Fewer than 6,000 of our 1.2 million U.S. associates make the federal minimum wage,” Gardner said.

Walmart employs 1.2 million people in the U.S., which is 1 percent of the entire American workforce.

Forward believes the middle class is shrinking and she hopes the event will raise awareness of unions, which she said, fight for employees’ rights and advocate for better pay and working conditions.

“It’s about what is happening to the middle class,” Forward said. “When this country was really strong 50 years ago, 33 percent of the households in this country were union households. We had the strongest middle class we ever had. Now, we have no middle class and 10 percent of our country’s households are union households.”

OUR Walmart, a non-profit organization made up of Walmart employees, organized the event. Their aim is to set a working wage of $15 an hour, to improve working conditions at the store and to allow employees to work full-time.

Gardner doesn’t believe many Walmart employees take part in the union.

“Regarding the union group OUR Walmart, so few current Walmart associates are participating because our associates understand the unparalleled opportunity the company provides, including career growth, cash bonuses, a 401k program, education and training programs,” Gardener said.

The NCLA criticized the chain, saying managers manipulate schedules to keep employees from working full-time in order to avoid giving them benefits.

According to Forward, the protest will be peaceful and more than 1,000 people have been invited. The NCLA members plan to pass out leaflets and carry signs.

The demonstration is scheduled from 8 to 8:30 a.m., Nov.28, at the Walmart located at 1600 University Drive in Vista.

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