Black Friday shoppers in Mishawaka and Goshen encountered protesters outside local Walmarts. Using the typically retail-friendly holiday as a platform for their message, outspoken men and women gave some negative attention to the mega chain.
Chants of, “High profits, low wages, Walmart is outrageous” could be heard at the Walmart on Indian Ridge Blvd. in Mishawaka Friday morning.
The protesters chose Black Friday because it is a day many retailers make their profits for the year due to extensive holiday shopping and sales. Because of the high profit margins, Black Friday has also become a day to focus on the workers of these major retailers.
“This isn’t anti-Walmart, this is pro-wages” said Muhammad Shabazz as he held up a poster outside Walmart.
The long-standing grievance was reignited when a Walmart executive reported only one third of Walmart employees earn more than $25,000 per year, the remaining one million workers are paid less. Nationwide thousands of protests erupted outside Walmart, each one preaching the same pro-wage message.
Shabazz, like the dozens of protesters out today believe Walmart should spread the wealth from its massive profits among some of its lowest paid employees.
The average hourly worker makes about $8.81 per hour according to the salary calculator, Payscale. That translates to roughly $16,000 a year.
Advocates for higher wages say $16,000 is inadequate to support a family. They claim $25,000 should be the minimum for staying out of poverty.
Democratic staffers from the U.S. House of Representatives released a report in May, 2013, analyzing the “low-wage” drag on the American economy. That Democratic report serves as the foundation for many of these protesters, it’s based on the analysis of a Wisconsin Walmart which found most employees rely on roughly $3,000 per year on government subsidized assistance programs to meet ends meet.
“In no way are we telling people, ‘don’t shop at Walmart,’” said AFL-CIO representative Tony Flora, “we’re about speaking up for the employees of Walmart so they can have a decent standard of living so our communities can do better.”
Friday, Flora and the protesters attempted to present a letter to the manager of Mishawaka’s Walmart which read:
“We are here today to support Walmart workers because they refuse to be silenced. They are our family, friends and neighbors and they are putting their jobs on the line for better working conditions and an end to the illegal retaliation…Now is the time for Walmart to own up to its position as the largest employer in the country and stop hurting our communities by forcing workers to take jobs that are unstable and pay less than what they deserve for their work.”
They were unable to successfully present the letter to management as police officers broke up the protest on Walmart’s private property. The bunch relocated the curb along Indian Ridge Blvd. and asked drivers to honk if they supported higher wages.
In response to the national protests, Walmart president and CEO, Bill Simon, made a public statement. He told NBC, “We are proud of the pay we have, also we pay in the top half of the retail industry and we understand that there will be people out asking for more, we understand that frustration after you know 5 years of difficult economy and we are gonna do all we can to look for opportunities for them to advance."