Black Friday Protests Target Global Worker Exploitation

By JoAnne Powers

Workers Independent News is heard Monday through Friday after the 6 and 11 p.m. news on 97.9 WHAV.

Workers Independent News is heard Monday through Friday after the 6 and 11 p.m. news on 97.9 WHAV.

Workers groups are planning Black Friday labor actions in major cities across the country to protest the mass-marketing of products that fail to respect workers on a global scale.

Rachel Laforest, director of the Retail Action Project, a Workers Center Initiative of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in New York, plans a“Tour of Shame,” targeting top offenders.

“We really feel it represents some of the worst things about our country in general and also some of the worst treatment of workers. The scramble to consume more things we already feel is problematic, but the kinds of worker abuses we also see, discrimination that happens based on race, age and gender, sexual identity, not to mention the way the environment is ravaged through the mass production of all these items of clothing and toys, and all of this tied up in a neat little bow, this very low-wage economic race to the bottom.” Laforest said.

This year’s tour includes Guitar Center, for failing to bargain fairly with the union; Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase for their involvements with the Dakota Access Pipeline and the 2008 economic collapse; and Chick Fil-A and Urban Outfitters who Laforest says have horrific records around homophobia and transphobia. In addition to concerns about general poor scheduling practices, low wages and discrimination, Laforest says, Black Friday itself requires many poorly-paid retail workers to start work as early as 6 a.m., Thanksgiving Day.

“They have to leave their families or any down time that they’re able to get. They often times are working ‘clopenings’, that’s a closing into an opening with a few hours’ worth of break in between. They have to deal with an enormous amount of abuse and disrespect by people who are coming in to do the shopping, and at the same time are not given any kind of really adequate compensation or respect from the employers themselves or their management.”