While shoppers turn to Black Friday for steep discounts and deals on a number of products, Walmart workers have taken to the picket lines at 1,600 stores in the U.S., demanding $15-per-hour wages and full-time work at the American retail giant. Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) is behind the protests, where workers are speaking out against low wages as well as the company’s previous efforts to discipline employees over the protests and strikes. The group has been protesting for the past two years.
“Many of us are living in deep poverty and going hungry because the Waltons won’t pay us a fair wage,” Walmart worker Sandra Sok said in a press release. “When my co-workers speak out about these issues, the company tries to silence us.”
Walmart workers have been walking off the job since Wednesday, with some participating in 24-hour fasts. In Denver, some protesters are planning to visit a Walmart store with Santa and his elves to deliver a bag of coal.
Walmart has come under scrutiny in recent years for its heavy-handed stance toward unions. Courts in Canada found Walmart in violation of Quebec’s labor code earlier this year for closing a store following employee efforts to unionize, according to the New York Times.
Though not a union, OUR Walmart is backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which has been unsuccessful in its attempts to unionize Walmart employees in the past. Walmart maintains that the strikes are a small portion of its 2.2 million global workforce.
"Perception is not reality in this case," Brooke Buchanan, a Walmart spokeswoman, told the Huffington Post. "Year after year we see the labor union and paid organizers promising they'll be out in force. And every year, we see a handful of people at a handful of stores."