Walmart’s Black Friday: Who Saves? Who Pays? Who Prays?

By Blake Valenta and the Rev. Michael Livingston

This Nov. 23, at pre­cisely 12:01 AM, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans will surge into their local Walmart. They will go eagerly search­ing for the rock bot­tom prices Walmart stakes its rep­u­ta­tion on. But this focus on low prices comes at a cost—a cost felt in the daily lives of the work­ers directly and indi­rectly employed by Walmart. In response, Walmart work­ers in recent months coura­geously went on strike over wages and safety con­cerns. This Black Fri­day, Inter­faith Worker Jus­tice asks peo­ple of faith to stand in sup­port of the work­ers of Walmart, by orga­niz­ing or join­ing prayer vig­ils at their local Walmart. Doing so will be an act of faith in con­cert with the sacred texts of many reli­gious tra­di­tions. For many of you this may be your first prayer vigil. So we would like to take a few min­utes to com­ment on the work­ing con­di­tions of Walmart work­ers, the effects of these con­di­tions, what the work­ers are doing to change these cir­cum­stances, and what you can do to sup­port them.

Stand with Walmart workersAs you may have read, OUR­ Wal­mart issued a warn­ing to Walmart that their intim­i­da­tion tac­tics, poor pay, and worker mis­treat­ment must change or they “will make sure that Black Fri­day is mem­o­rable for them." Inter­faith Worker Jus­tice is call­ing on clergy and peo­ple of faith to make a stand: to pub­licly demon­strate their desire for Walmart to do what is best for the com­pany, its work­ers, and the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity via prayer vig­ils at their local store. It is not known which Walmarts will be affected by the threat­ened walk offs, but the issues out­lined above affect all Walmart workers.

You are not being asked to attack Walmart (leave the pitch­fork and torches at home!). We are sim­ply invit­ing you to ask an extremely prof­itable com­pany to ensure their work­ers are paid a liv­ing wage and have decent ben­e­fits. It is not a boy­cott. You are not being asked to block shop­pers or shout at man­age­ment. Instead, you are, through your prayers, edu­cat­ing Walmart and Black Fri­day shop­pers of the human cost of these low prices. You are telling them that, for a mere 42 cents more, they could pur­chase that heav­ily dis­counted TV from a well-paid employee instead of a poverty wage part-time worker. You are ask­ing Walmart to expand its vision beyond its myopic cost cut­ting focus and out to the wider com­mu­nity where its employ­ees and shop­pers live. In addi­tion, your pres­ence will act as a bea­con of sup­port to the employ­ees who may be walk­ing off in protest, con­sid­er­ing walk­ing off, or just unhappy with how they are treated.

This excerpt originally appeared in Unbound, an interactive journal for Christian Social Justice. Click here to read the entire article. Graphic courtesy of Making Change at Walmart!