By Bryce Covert. This article was first published on Think Progress.
Walmart workers went on strike on in Miami on Monday morning, following strikes in Tampa on Saturday and in Sacramento, CA on Friday.
Katie, who has worked at a store in Miami for three years and makes $8.75 an hour, told ThinkProgress she’s striking to improve conditions for both herself and her coworkers. “We’re going on strike for better benefits, for better pay for associates, and for respect,” she said.
The strikes make eight this month, coming after workers called out or walked off the job in Dallas, cities in Ohio, Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Workers also went on strike in Miami in October. All the strikers have been making three demands: that the company pay its employees at least $25,000 a year, that it add full-time positions for those who want them, and that it end retaliation against those who go on strike.
The strikes come just ahead of planned actions on Black Friday — a day that drew 400 workers who went on strike last year — and workers and activists have already promised 1,500 protests across the country this year, in the Bay Area, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
In response to the strikes, a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement, “Just like last year, we anticipate that Black Friday will be incredibly successful, with no disruption to our overall business.” He noted that it served 22 million customers and had 10 million register transactions. “We respect everyone’s right to speak his or her mind, but it is unfortunate that some people have picked such an important day to do so,” he added.
The majority of Walmart’s in-store workforce earns less than $25,000 a year, and the average sales associate makes just $8.81 an hour. They make so little that employees at a single location consume about $1 million in public benefits like food stamps and Medicaid just to scrape by. Yet the company could afford to pay all of its workers at least $25,000 without raising its low prices.
Many workers also struggle to get enough hours and get few benefits thanks to being part-time or temporary employees. The reliance on these workers has hurt the company’s sales, a problem it recently recognized when it decided to add more full-time positions ahead of the holiday season.
Workers who strike or look into forming unions have repeatedly claimed that they were retaliated against by being fired or disciplined. Some of those claims were recently substantiated by the National Labor Relations Board, which said it will prosecute the company for violating their right to organize and protest for better conditions. Among other things, it found that Walmart stores in 13 states unlawfully fired, disciplined, or threatened workers who went on strike.
While some workers promise to strike the day after Thanksgiving, others will have to show up to the job on the holiday itself. Walmart is among a growing number of stores this year that will open their doors on Thanksgiving Day for holiday shopping. The companies claim their workers are excited and they will be paid extra for coming in, workers claim that Walmart manipulates hours ahead of the holiday to lower the bonus pay.