Thanksgiving is a time where we are glad to spend a few days at home with our loved ones and give thanks. For families in Connecticut it’s a brief respite from the working world, before winter’s chill completely sets in.
Sadly, many of our nation’s most vulnerable workers won’t be able to rest on Thanksgiving Day.
Many employees of Walmart and other retail outlets across Connecticut will have to leave their families early to open stores at midnight for the notorious “Black Friday” holiday sales. These are workers who already suffer from low wages, unfair scheduling practices, and have recently seen reductions to what little healthcare benefits Walmart may have provided them in the past few years.
The Walmart workers’ plight underscores the importance of collective bargaining and union membership in helping workers earn their rights. When individuals come together to negotiate with their employers – they get better outcomes. It took groups of working people coming together to secure our national minimum wage, vacation days, the weekend, and child labor laws, just to name a few.
Historically, the rise in collective bargaining and union membership is associated with the growth of our nation’s middle class and significantly reduced income inequality.
These are all signs that indicate that when workers do better, our communities thrive. Workers are people who contribute to their neighborhoods, they spend their hard-earned money at local shops and businesses, and their tax dollars go to support our schools and pave our roads. When we let all working people rise to the top, we help move Connecticut and America forward.
This year, working people are stepping up the fight to demand their rights from employers and make sure that their voices are heard. It’s not just Walmart employees – thousands of fast food workers joined together to demand the right to form a union and earn a livable wage. Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota decided “enough is enough,” and opted for increases to their states’ minimum wage.
On Black Friday, Walmart workers will make history and take another stand. They’ve planned over 1,600 protests at Walmart stores nationwide, several of which will take place right here in Connecticut. They are our neighbors, community members, family, and friends and they will be asking for the most basic workers’ rights — rights that many of us take for granted.
Change takes time, change takes hard work, and change takes action, but whenever working people come together change is possible. This Thanksgiving, let’s stand with protesting workers at Walmart, and hope that they can give thanks for a few more things next year.
Sal Luciano is the executive director of Council 4 AFSCME, a union representing 32,000 public service workers.