A group of Tulsa Wal-Mart employees and critics plan to protest the retail giant during the store’s upcoming Black Friday sales event. The picketers will join thousands of similar protests across the nation.
“All working people deserve to see the growth of the economy in our pocketbooks and not just in the growth of the already obscene wealth accumulated by the Walton family and the rest of the one percent. This protest is a step in that direction,” said Ariana Eakle, co-organizer of the protest and a former Wal-Mart employee.
According to their website, Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the United States, employing 1.3 million workers. A full-time hourly employee at Wal-Mart makes an average of $27,000 a year.
According to Forbes.com The Walton family, the six primary heirs of Wal-Mart founders Sam and Bud Walton, had a net worth of $152 billion in 2013. They were worth $93 billion in 2011, amounting to an increase of $59 billion in two years.
A controversial financial maneuver in 2014 granted Wal-Mart CEO William Simon a $1.5 million “performance bonus” despite unmet sales goals within the company. Similar bonuses have been paid out to other Wal-Mart executives in recent years.
These factors have spurred a series of employee and workers’ union led protests over the last few years.
A previous Tulsa protest organized by Eakle and her boyfriend, Wal-Mart employee Kevin Polovina, drew 20 attendees in 2013. She expects 40 to show up this year.
“The reality is that few Wal-Mart associates participate in these labor-organized protests,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said.
The company plans on expanding its sales event to five days, extending from Thanksgiving morning to the following “Cyber Monday.” Wal-Mart touts record-breaking Black Friday sales despite the internal conflict between employees and management.
“We’ve spent a lot of time listening to you [the employees] about what you want in terms of schedule choice, job growth and access to opportunity,” Simon said in a shareholders’ meeting in June. “We’re working to create more flexible schedules to support you and the needs of all our associates now and in the future.”
The amiable sentiment from Wal-Mart’s top executive failed to quell anger at the local level. The protesters will assemble Thanksgiving morning outside the Wal-Mart SuperCenter adjacent to Woodland Hills Mall.
“Keep in mind that protesting on Walmart land is considered trespassing… don’t make silencing you easy on them,” Eakle said.