Thanksgiving by Another Name: Supporting Black Friday Actions by WalMart Workers

Monday, November 4th, 2013 3:15 pm

Patch from Interfaith Worker Justice Website


You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

(2 Corinthians 9: 11-12)

Each year in November, we celebrate Thanksgiving with our families, and the next day, many of us spend the day shopping on Black Friday. Can we as people of faith try something different this year?

Thanksgiving Day is a time to be with our families, friends and our communities to share a bountiful meal around a table and honor what we’re most thankful for. In the U.S., it’s a national holiday to reflect on the many blessings we have received and remember those who are less fortunate. We remember those individuals locked in the prison-industrial complex, those suffering in our neighborhoods, our schools, and many others around the country and world. We say our prayers of thanksgivings; fill up on all food in sight, rest and sleep. The following day (or early morning hours) we wait in long lines to shop for the best Black Friday sales and deals. Sometimes shoppers wrestle, fight and struggle to get the best sale items.

This year, I challenge you to do something different.

Thanksgiving should provide our families with a renewed understanding of why it’s important to act on behalf of the poor particularly those workers who are treated unjustly. I’m talking about the workers who long to spend time with their family during the holiday season but they are left working without a living wage. The ones who stock our retail stores and tirelessly stand at cash registers barraged with both inconsequential questions and occasional insults.

I am talking about supporting Walmart workers as we move into this holiday season. Walmart is the largest private employer and the world’s largest retailer; with almost 1.4 million “associates” who work along their supply chain. Unfortunately, nearly one half of Walmart’s store associates earn less than $25,000 annually and need to rely on public assistance and social services to survive. Walmart is forcing taxpayers to supplement this corporate greed. The government, other organizations and church programs should not subsidize multi-billion dollar corporations to provide the bare minimum to any worker.  

Walmart’s slogan, “Save money, Live better,” is in direct opposition of the poverty facing many Walmart workers because of the corporation’s poor wages and sporadic hours. Walmart cut hours and make their workers part-time so they do not have to provide them benefits. Healthcare is not even affordable. Often times, other than not being provided a livable wage, workers are not given dependable, predictable schedules so workers have to be on-call unable to schedule other job opportunities or work other jobs. 

Many Walmart workers are standing up and calling for the dignity and respect they deserve on the job. The Organization United for Respect at Walmart (made up of current and former Walmart workers), community, and national groups like Interfaith Worker Justice where I work are leading actions, rallies and prayer vigils on Black Friday at stores all across the country to pressure Walmart to treat their workers better. I urge you to live out your faith on Black Friday by joining or leading a Black Friday action or prayer vigil in your community. Together let’s tell Walmart executives and managers know that we care about the way they treat their workers more than we care about special Black Friday deals and savings! Learn more about Interfaith Worker Justice’s campaign for Dignity and Respect at Walmart  and to get involved!

It’s time to act, and show our thanks in a different way.  Let’s use this holiday season to honor the needs of God’s people, be generous in support, and aid in their struggle for justice. Let’s act in thanksgiving for our gifts by helping Walmart workers earn better wages, better benefits and working conditions. It’s the abundance we receive that calls us to be a blessing to others.

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Mistead Sai is a US-2 missionary for the United Methodist through the General Board of Global ministries. Mistead Said serves at Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) as their Worker Center Network Assistant providing support to worker center affiliates nationwide. Mistead received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at the University of Maryland. He enjoys intellectual conversations, likes documentaries, and has taken a liking to investigating issues surrounding environmental racism, biopolitics, and identity politics in recent months.

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