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Black Friday at Walmart: Faces and voices from the shopping wars

In the end, 26 protesters were arrested by the St. Paul Police for civil disobedience, while Walmart reported record sales.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
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The nouveau American holy day Black Friday was in full swing at the Midway Walmart store in St. Paul when a march of about 500 workers and union activists briefly descended on the big box and moved down University Avenue. Inside Walmart, a steady stream of families consumed electronics, entertainment, clothes, and food (by noon Friday, Walmart customers worldwide had purchased 2.8 million towels, 2 million televisions, and 1.4 million computer tablets), while outside, protesters raised their voices on behalf of the greed- and consumerism-weary proletariat in general and Walmart workers all over the country in a show of solidarity with minimum-wage advocates

In the end, 26 protesters were arrested by the St. Paul Police for civil disobedience (i.e. sitting down in the middle of University and Snelling Avenues and locking arms), while Walmart reported record sales.

A few faces and voices from the minimum-wage/living-wage wars:

TimMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Tim Moore, Brainerd: “I came to show my support for the people who are making less than a livable wage. I am tired of subsidizing companies like Walmart and Target through my tax dollars, because they don’t pay people well enough to put food on the table and they qualify for all sorts of assistance from the state because their wages are so low.”

MisraMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Misra Hussien, Walmart associate: “I’ve been working here three years. I’m not comfortable talking about how much I make (but) it’s not bad. I have the right to protest for myself; I don’t want nobody to protest for me. I can do for myself instead of somebody doing for me.”

O'BriensMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Colleen (left) and Anita O’Brien, Rhinelander, Wis. “I’m here to protest corporate greed, I’m here to stand with workers, and I’m here to help to ensure that we can preserve the middle class,” said Colleen.

BikilaMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Bikila Shuna, Walmart assistant manager: “I’ve been working here five years, and I love working here. I have to say, Black Friday is my favorite. All the fast-paced environment, all the running up and down, I love it here. I love the fact that I get to help people. Our slogan is ‘Save Money So You Can Live Better,’ and I actually see that in reality. Not only in people’s lives, but in my life, in my family’s life. We do save money here, so we can live better.

“I’m engaged. My family, my mom and dad and two brothers and sisters who live in Chaska, can’t afford to shop anywhere else, because they don’t have so much money, so they shop here so they can afford to send us to school and buy clothing. And now I’m grown, and I work here, and I make that difference in other people’s lives, and I’m happy for that.

“I believe (Walmart) offers competitive wages compared to other retailers. I started as a cashier here. What puts me here and why I stay here is because I can move up. What keeps me here is not what I’m making, but [what] I will be making in a few years. As long as I have that motivation, I know this company will help me move forward.”

FelishaMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Felisha Lindquist, Our Walmart:

 “Our Walmart is a group of former and current associates who want to stand up and live better. I used to work at Walmart, and there is widespread bullying and disrespect from the managers. Walmart employees don’t make enough to live on their own. There are associates who live with their parents who are 26, 27 years old who can’t afford their own apartment and can’t afford to go to school. Single moms can’t raise their kids.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh 

Tori Hong, Lakeville: “I’m here to support the workers who get paid [low] wages while the people above them are raking in millions of dollars by keeping their stores open every day of the year. The minimum wage in this state is $7.25 an hour, and that’s not enough to support a family. You need three or four of those jobs just to make a living wage.”

PhilMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Phil Rumsey, Walmart market asset protection manager: “I’ve been with Walmart for almost 13 years. I think that [the protesters outside] is business as usual, and the day after Thanksgiving we’ve got a lot of customers coming into our store looking for great prices and product for the holidays and at this time we’re just doing what we can to serve our customers saving money so they can live better. I have no opinion on [the living-wage issue], I’m here to serve our customers today.”

AndyMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Andy Galloway, New Brighton: “I’m a Teamster. [Walmart employees] can’t talk freely in that store; Walmart’s got a policy of flying in this hit team from wherever they come from and firing the general manager and clearing the store out if there’s any talk of organization. I think these guys need to figure out how to stand together and build solidarity. Then instead of begging for what they need, they can collectively bargain for what they need.”

Sally and MichaelMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Sally Downing, Minneapolis, and Michael McDowell, Minneapolis: “Walmart is one of the largest employers in the world, certainly in this country, and they’ve been taking advantage of their employees for years and years and they’ve fired people for trying to start unions and I just hate all this injustice,” said Sally.

“I hear stories from Walmart about people who’ve been there for eight years and their wage is still at minimum wage, and people can’t work their way up the ladder,” said Michael. “That’s not fair. Their wages need to match how long they’ve been with the corporation.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh 

Anne Hamre, Roseville: “There’s a Walmart going in not far from me in Roseville, and that’s the last thing we need there, or anywhere, because they drive out the locally-owned businesses, they drive down wages, they drive up public safety costs because they don’t hire enough security guards, and it’s a downward spiral. We need to get back to locally-owned independent businesses who treat their employees with respect.”

ShanikaMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Shanika Summers, Walmart customer associate: “Walmart treats their employees good, I think. We have good pay, we have good hours. I’ve been here almost eight months now. I’m making almost ten dollars an hour, and considering my living situation now I’m getting by pretty well right now. I don’t live beyond my means, so I’m doing pretty well and my pay is pretty good. [The protesters] make me sad, because what they’re saying isn’t true.”

MaryMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Mary DePry, Roseville: “Walmart made $15 billion last year, and it costs our government $2 billion to subsidize their employees with food stamps and health care, and I’m a taxpayer, and I object.”

St. Paul police
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh 

St. Paul police shut down the protest, arresting 26 on civil disobedience charges.