New Mexico mobilizes to join national Walmart protests on Black Friday!

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For about twenty-four hours on the busiest shopping day of the year, Walmart workers, union members and a slew of other activists pulled off the largest-ever US strike against the largest employer in the world. According to organizers, strikes hit a hundred US cities, with hundreds of retail workers walking off the job. Organizers say they also hit their goal of a thousand total protests, with all but four states holding at least one. In the process, they notched a further escalation against the corporation that’s done more than any other to frustrate the ambitions and undermine the achievements of organized labor in the United States, reports Josh Eidelson for The Nation.

Tania Chavez, with Occupy Santa Fe, joins a group of about 40 protesters outside the Walmart on Cerrillos Road on Friday. (Eddie Moore, ABQ Journal)

In New Mexico, protests took place at four Walmarts in Albuquerque and at stores in Rio Rancho, Los Lunas, Santa Fe, Gallup and Farmington, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The largest protests took place with about 100 people participating in a demonstration at the Albuquerque Walmart on Carlisle Boulevard NE, and about 40 people at the Walmart on Cerillos Road in Santa Fe. The activists in Santa Fe also protested outside Sam’s Club at 11 a.m. and at the Walmart Supercenter at noon, and they handed letters to the managers at all 3 Walmart-owned stores, reports Journal North. In addition, about a half dozen Walmart employees staged an early-morning walkout to protest poor working conditions at the Walmart in Clovis, NM.

The New Mexico chapter of Interfaith Worker Justice, a national organization that advocates for workers’ rights, organized the demonstrations in Santa Fe. “Interfaith Worker Justice is looking at how to reform laws that protect workers from being exploited by corporations like Walmart,” said the Rev. Holly Beaumont, the local chapter’s organizing director. “The goal of these demonstrations is to show a presence, both to the public and Walmart Corporation. This is just the beginning of standing with Walmart workers in the days, months and perhaps even years to come.”

Demonstrators displayed signs carrying such messages as “People Over Profits,” “Justice 4 All,” and “I Support the Walmart Strikers,” and Beaumont led prayer vigils at each of the three stops in Santa Fe. People took turns reading quotes from Scripture and human rights activists, such as Martin Luther King Jr.

At each stop the group delivered a letter to the store manager. In part, the letter read, “This year, as you and your company mark your 50th anniversary and celebrate the values of ‘hard work,’ entrepreneurship,’ and ‘the American dream,” we remember and pray for the 2.2 million Walmart workers across this nation and around the world who are paid poverty wages while having to work in dangerous environments with limited access to insurance and benefits. We call on Walmart to share its corporate wealth with workers by providing a living wage, benefits that include paid vacation and holidays, and a safe workplace for all workers.”

“Big national retailers, and especially Wal-Mart, have developed a practice of not paying workers a living wage,” said Pat Davis, executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico, which assisted in alerting grass-roots organizations and individuals about the events. “We’re supporting the workers in their right to stand up and demand better pay.”

About 100 local labor union members, members of (un)Occupy Albuquerque and others gather in front of the Walmart store on Carlisle NE on Friday, part of the demonstrations planned nationwide to protest Wal-Mart pay and work schedules. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

About 100 people gathered outside the Walmart near Carlisle and Menaul in northeast Albuquerque on Friday, holding signs in support of Walmart workers, and attracting the attention of drivers passing by, reported KRQE. Most of those who showed up to protest are not employees, except one couple, who made the trek from Clovis with family, and walked out on Walmart Thursday night. Walmart employees, Megan Jenkins, and Johnny Wilson, said they were both scheduled to work Black Friday. Like the other protesters, Jenkins and Wilson said they’re there to speak out against the company, irregular scheduling, low wages and Walmart’s decision to start Black Friday deals at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. KRQE presents:

KOB also covered the Albuquerque protest: Protesters greeted shoppers through the morning at the Walmart on Carlisle near Menaul.  The message: Wal-Mart Unfair to Workers! No workers appeared to walk off the job to join the protest the way they did in some other cities, but a few Wal-Mart employees from Clovis did show up in Albuquerque to protest. One of them was Johnny Wilson, who proudly wore his Wal-Mart name badge.

“We want better pay, better benefits,” Wilson said. “Wal-Mart retaliates against us for speaking up. We speak up, we get written up, we get extra work dumped on us. Our schedules get cut. We’re tired of it.”

“Wal-Mart employs over one million workers across the country,” said Esther Lopez, who carred a union sign. “All of them had to come to work last night. They can’t be with their families, they have to be here at work. They worked all night. They have to be here today.”

And on Thanksgiving evening, Walmart employees in Clovis, NM staged a walkout:

(un)Occupy Albuquerque provides this recap: On Black Friday there were over 1,000 protests across the US, and hundreds of employees walking-out, all in support of Walmart workers striking for fair wages and good working conditions. OccupyWallSt.org has a good overview of the struggle, with follow-upOUR Walmart‘s site is also a good resource.

There’s a photo essay of the Carlisle protest at La Jicarita, and our compatriots over at OccupyNewMexico.org just posted a roundup of the actions around the state, including the early-morning employee walkout in Clovis, and our demonstration with UFCW Local #1564 and many others. In addition to the coverage from KOB & KRQE TV and an earlier brief on KUNM FM, a longer KUNM piece on the strike should be broadcast soon. Occupy Santa Fe presents a photo album of the Walmart actions in Santa Fe and labor activist Robert Francis posted a photo album from the events in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. Adriana Sanchez published an essay on El Grito about New Mexicans joining the protests against Walmart working conditions in Albuquerque.

And in a rare and noteworthy (although symbolic) gesture of working-class solidarity, Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman Javier M. Gonzales released a Thanksgiving Day statement in support of the Wal-Mart workers striking across the United States:

“As we continue to be thankful this weekend for the many blessings we have as Americans, it’s important to remember the struggle many of our friends and neighbors still face in the workplace. Tomorrow, nationwide — with five locations in New Mexico alone – Wal-Mart workers will be striking for better working conditions, fairer wages and equal treatment in the workplace.  The Democratic Party of New Mexico stands in solidarity with these men and women and all Americans who yearn to live a better life. As we prepare for the holiday season, remember to support those stores and retailers who support the average worker and treat them with the dignity and respect all Americans deserve.”

On Monday, Democracy Now filed this report on the historic Walmart protests:

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