Black Friday Protests Turn Turkey
By Olivia Grady
Black Friday protests in past years have been held at hundreds of Walmarts across the United States, and unions even claimed in 2014 to host protests at 1,600 places.
The protests on Black Friday, November 25, 2016, however were much smaller this year. There were smaller protests in New York, Seattle and Chicago, but the Walmart protests were gone.
The unions were just not as involved.
After failing to organize a single Walmart store nationwide, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has been less interested in protesting Black Friday at Walmart. As a result, there have been no protests for the past two years.
Meredith Ritchie, spokeswoman for the UFCW-backed Making Change at Walmart, described the union’s 2016 plans, "As we announced last year, we're shifting away from actions that occur specifically on Black Friday. Nothing else will be announced at this time, but we are planning a holiday campaign that will kick off in December."
This change is due in part to a new UFCW president, Anthony Perrone, who thought these protests weren’t successful and cut the funding.
The lack of protests this year and last year show precisely what Walmart and others have been saying all along: few Walmart employees actually protested. The majority of these protests were by people who were brought in by the union.
Executive Director of the Center for Union Facts, Richard Berman, described the protests:
“The reality is that these “strikes” are not the culmination of an organic movement of disgruntled and beleaguered employees. Instead, they are nothing more than Potemkin village protests — comprised of few or no actual Wal-Mart employees — that are organized by the country’s labor leaders to smear the nation’s biggest retailer.”
Walmart spokesman Brian Nick responded to the protests in 2015:
"While the unions and their allies spend time and union dues attacking a company that employs 1.4 million Americans, we'll continue to focus on our commitment to spend a $1 billion this year alone to not only raise wages but provide additional skills-based training and other opportunities to build great careers."
Some Walmart employees have even expressed outrage that non-Walmart employees are representing them in protests: "’They say we are just getting $9.50 an hour [DC's then-minimum wage], but that's not so,’ said one employee who requested not to be named.”
Although there were hundreds of protesters on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile blocking stores, this protest similarly was much smaller than last years.
The protesters were demanding changes to the criminal justice system, namely an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. They also criticized Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and President-elect Donald Trump.
The Chicago Teachers Union was expected to take part in this protest. While the event is listed under the events tab on their website, the union surprisingly did not release a statement about the protest or comment about it.
Sandra Torres of CBS Chicago did find one Chicago Public School teacher. “Teachers understand this issue because we work in the communities really affected by police terror, by racial profiling,” Chicago Public Schools teacher Nicholas Limbeck said.
Seattle and New York also had protests organized by Black Lives Matter, but no unions appeared to have been involved in these protests.
The reactions of the shoppers show why unions have backed out of Black Friday protests: their reactions are overall not positive.
Some express their support for the First Amendment: “It’s the right of every American,” said Tom Kettrell. “It may be disruptive, but it’s the right of every American to peacefully protest.”
Others are not as pleased: “Oh come on, these people don’t even know what they want. I refuse to ruin my day by not coming down here because these people are here!” said Kathy Ahillen.