Watching the Today show this morning I was disappointed in the lack of coverage of the Walmart Black Friday protests. Our local NBC station repeatedly ran a story with the same images and short dialogue about a protest in Quincy and protests in other states. During the afternoon broadcast they added a statement from Walmart that they have some of the best jobs in retail. Ya, right.
All over twitter, photos and reports from around the country came in showing that there were protest with substantial support.
In Knoxville Tennessee a show of solidarity among several church leaders was inspiring.
According to a story in the Tennessean:
Interfaith Worker Justice of East Tennessee — a group that includes Methodist, United Church of Christ, Episcopal and Unitarian Universalist ministers — released a letter Friday morning saying that Walmart should “share its corporate weath” with workers by paying better wages, improving benefits and offering a safer workplace.
The group has timed its appeal to coincide with Black Friday.
“By the end of the day, Walmart will make millions in sales and profits. The hardworking associates and warehouse workers, however, will go home with barely enough to make ends meet.
“There is no reason for those who work at your stores and your contracted warehouses to go without basic necessities such as food and shelter. Yet, many of them live in poverty because Walmart does not pay fair wages.”
The group calls on Walmart to mark its 50th anniversary with a “jubilee,” the Biblical concept of debt forgiveness.
The letter is posted in full below.
Copy of letter here
Interfaith Worker Justice
Of East Tennessee
934 Weisgarber Road, Knoxville, Tennessee 37909
November 23, 2012
Walmart Home Office
702 SW 8th St.
Bentonville, AR 72716-8611
Dear Mr. Duke,
We are writing you today to let you know that on this Black Friday, we join thousands of people of faith who are gathered at different Walmart stores across the country in support of Walmart associates and Walmart-contracted warehouse workers demanding respect, better wages and safer working conditions.
As we stand outside of East Tennessee area stores on the biggest shopping day of the year, we see an endless stream of customers and thousands of items flying off the shelves. By the end of the day, Walmart will make millions in sales and profits. The hardworking associates and warehouse workers, however, will go home with barely enough to make ends meet.
There is no reason for those who work at your stores and your contracted warehouses to go without basic necessities such as food and shelter. Yet, many of them live in poverty because Walmart does not pay fair wages.
As people of faith, we call for a Jubilee at Walmart as the company celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Jubilee is the biblical covenant requiring the cancellation of debts, freeing of slaves and redistribution of resources every 50 years to limit inequality.
Walmart is the glaring example of inequality, and for 50 years it helped legitimize an economy benefiting the interests of a few wealthy executives at the expense of working people.
This year, as you and your company celebrate the values of “hard work,” “entrepreneurship,” and “the American dream,” we remember and pray for the 1.4 million Walmart workers in the United States earning poverty wages while having to work in dangerous environments with limited access to insurance and benefits.
We call on Walmart to share its corporate wealth with workers by providing what is due to store associates and to those contracted to provide and move Walmart goods: a living wage, benefits and a safe workplace.
Rev. Jim Sessions, Elder, United Methodist Church
Pamela Schoenewaldt, Church of the Savior, United Church of Christ
Re. John Gill, Church of the Savior, United Church of Christ
David Linge, St. James Episcopal Church
Rev. John Mark Wiggers, Rector, St. James Episcopal Church
Rev. Gordon Gibson, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church
John Stewart, Deacon for Social Justice, Church of the Savior, United Church of Christ
Guy Larry Osborne
Rev. Paige Buchholz, Episcopal Church
Rev. Laura Bogle, Foothills Unitarian Universalist Church
Rev. Timothy Kobler, United Methodist Church
Frances Lee Ansley
Rev. Marcia Free
Dennie R. Kelley
Rev. John Lackey
Cynthia E. Collins
Jobs with Justice of East Tennessee
John Lackey Jr.
Rev. Erik Johnson
Carrie Mayes San Angelo
CC: Walmart store managers in Knoxville, Alcoa, Oak Ridge, Maryville, Clinton