On Black Friday, Unions Are Striking For a Better Deal

It’s been a historic year for labor action—and it’s not over yet.

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Retail workers are walking out during  the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, leveraging a weekend of huge profits for retailers to demand better pay and working conditions. 

Amazon workers in more than 30 countries are striking this weekend as part of the worldwide “Make Amazon Pay” campaign, protesting the retailer’s labor practices, low wages, and high emissions. The strike would amount to “the largest day of industrial disruption in Amazon’s thirty-year history,” according to Amanda Gering, an organizer with the UK’s GMB union, which began strikes at Amazon earlier this month. This Black Friday marked the fourth year globally that Amazon workers have planned strikes for this shopping weekend—an effort that began during Covid, when Amazon made record profits as workers struggled and, in some cases, died.

In Washington, about four hundred Macy’s employees from three different stores went on strike, beginning their picket at 3:00 AM on Black Friday. Their union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, says that Macy’s isn’t doing enough to address safety threats like violent shoppers and shoplifting, and that pay is not keeping up with the cost of living. “Workers don’t feel safe in our store, and now they are scared of retaliation so they’ve stopped calling for help when they see a threat,” explained sales associate Liisa Luick in a release from UFCW 3000. Azia Domingo, who has worked for Macy’s for 21 years, said, “Macy’s is making billions of dollars and paying their CEO $11 million a year, but most of us workers are struggling to make ends meet…We shouldn’t have to question whether we can afford to have health insurance and go to the doctor.”

These Black Friday strikes cap off a historic year of labor action. In September, the United Auto Workers launched a historic strike at the country’s three largest automakers. (Mother Jones’ rank-and-file staff, including the author of this post, are represented by UAW Local 2103.)  In October, the largest health care strike in US history took place when 75,ooo Kaiser Permanente workers across five states and Washington, DC, walked out. Hollywood actors and writers spent almost half the year away from sets and writer’s rooms, demanding better pay and protections around the use of artificial intelligence. 

“Workers know that it doesn’t matter what country you’re in or what your job title is,” said General Secretary Cristy Hoffman of UNI, an international union federation which has workers taking part in this weekend’s Amazon strike.  “We are all united in the fight for higher wages, an end to unreasonable quotas, and a voice on the job.”

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