On this year’s Black Friday, November 29, 2013, local activists held a rally at the Walmart in Urbana that was organized by Central Illinois Jobs With Justice.
They stood out in 30 degree weather holding signs as shoppers drove by, many of them honking and waving. The local chapter of Jobs With Justice was calling on Walmart to pay its workers a living wage.
Protesters attempted to deliver the below letter, but did not even make it to the front door. They were stopped outside by two representatives of Walmart. The one shown speaking to the group below said, “I admire what you are doing.” She then promptly stated that Walmart was invoking its right to private property, told protesters to leave, and said they were calling the police. The Urbana police showed up minutes later, after people had left.
“We are back to where we were a year ago on Black Friday: standing with your hardworking employees who want nothing more than to be treated with dignity and respect at your stores.
Today, we once again join people of faith and community allies who are gathered at Walmart stores across the country in support of the store and supply chain workers who are fighting for respect, better wages, safer working conditions, and an end to the intimidation or retaliation against workers who speak up.
We demand that you listen to workers like Gail Todd, a 38-‐year old mother of three. Gail has worked at the Walmart store in Landover Hills, MD for more than a year, earning wages that keep her and her family below the poverty line. By the end of this year, Gail will make only $17,000. Last year, her family barely survived on $14,000. Despite her hard work, Gail is forced to depend on food stamps and low income housing in order to survive.
By the end of this shopping day alone, Walmart will make millions in profits. There is no reason for those who work at your stores and your contracted warehouses and suppliers to live in poverty, yet many of them do. And when your workers stand up to demand better pay and working conditions, they are penalized for doing so.
As members of the communities on which you’ve built your company’s fortune, we demand that you listen to your workers, treat them with respect, and pay them wages that allow them to provide for their own families.
Every major faith tradition affirms the dignity of work, and as people of faith we are called to honor and protect the basic rights of all workers.
Today, we pray that you and others on Walmart’s executive team and board be reminded of your moral responsibility to treat all your store workers, including those who produce your goods, with dignity and respect.
We call on Walmart to share its corporate wealth with workers by providing what is due to store associates and to those contracted to provide and move Walmart goods: a living wage, benefits and a safe workplace. Thank you.”
Four days later, on Thursday the 5th, Jobs with Justice organized a demonstration for a $15 per hour minimum wage, again as part of a nation-wide effort targeting McDonald’s.
The demonstration took place at the McDonald’s on Kirby and Neil. Demonstrators with signs initially stood on the sidewalk along Kirby beginning at 5 pm, a busy traffic hour. After about a half-hour on the sidewalk, it was decided to try to enter the restaurant. Unlike Walmart, McDonald’s had a hired security force to stand outside as well as inside the restaurant. They prevented entry. As far as the demonstrators could get was the inside of the small foyer on the south side of the establishment. A security person prevented them from penetrating the inner door. One of the security people forced the press off of the McDonald’s lot, and tried to provoke violence by deliberately bumping up against the demonstrators as they marched around the building. No one reacted violently to the provocation. And point was made very visibly to drivers at that busy intersection.