Walmart workers hailed their wage protest today, saying their walkout on 'Black Friday' had shown the world's largest retailer their determination to fight against all odds.
Hundreds of protesters targeted Walmart stores across the United States yesterday, the busiest shopping day of the year, accusing the bargain superstore of ripping off its own employees.
The protests were designed to disrupt the Black Friday shopping frenzy, after Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday, when deep discounts pull in waves of customers.
"Today's protests at Walmart stores across the country are a reminder of the enormous power of working people uniting to demand a better future with a living wage, affordable healthcare and respect on the job," said Mary Kay Henry, president of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Her optimism was shared by Colby Harris, a Walmart sales associate who walked off his job in Lancaster, Texas late Thursday.
"Our voices are being heard," said Harris. "And thousands of people in our cities and towns and all across the country are joining our calls for change at Walmart. We are overwhelmed by the support and proud of what we've achieved so quickly and about where we are headed."
The main force behind the wage protest, the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), said it was pressuring for "decent pay, regular hours, affordable healthcare and respect."
The powerful UAW auto-workers union also came on board, saying that because of Walmart's size, the company "has enormous power to set the trends not just for the retail and service industries, but for the economy as a whole."
Another prominent supporter was Robert Reich, labor secretary under president Bill Clinton, who saw the debate over conditions at Walmart, owned by the multi-billionaire Walton family, as reflecting deeper problems in US society.
"The widening inequality reflected in the gap between the pay of Walmart workers and the returns to Walmart investors, including the Walton family, haunts the American economy," Reich wrote in a post to his blog titled, "Why You Shouldn't Shop at Walmart on Friday."
Walmart, which denies there are any widespread complaints, last week filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to try to block the Black Friday protests.
Yesterday, the retail giant downplayed the controversy, saying in a statement that "only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates."