Walmart workers across the country made history in 2012 by going on strike on the busiest days of retail, Black Friday. Their courage was inspirational—I instantly wanted to show my solidarity after seeing some of our country’s most vulnerable workers coming together to demand respect. For Black Friday 2013, I showed my support as a community activist at one of the thousands of striking stores. This year will be slightly different, as an intern at Making Change at Walmart, I will be behind the scenes helping to organize an even larger wave of Black Friday strikes against the world’s largest retailer.
After learning about ILR’s Credit Internship Program, I knew I wanted an internship helping to build the labor movement by putting to practice what I have learned in the classroom. I reached out to organizers at UFCW and expressed my interest in their campaign. Before I knew it, I was hired to be an intern organizer on the Making Change at Walmart campaign headquartered in Washington DC.
Making Change at Walmart is an organization created by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) helping to gather community partnerships, legal support, and solidarity campaigns with Walmart employees. We work closely with the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) which is created and composed of current and former Walmart employees. Although the strikes on Black Friday have brought the most attention to the campaign, our project is much larger. Working closely with workers, we run political campaigns, hold protests, and do anything we can to get these workers’ voices heard.
The Walton family of Walmart—who hold more wealth than the combined wealth of the bottom 42% of Americans—has been very resistant to workers’ basic demands. The demands by workers are modest, such as: full time hours with a living wage greater than $25K a year, an end to retaliation for workers, and an improved sick day policy. Since beginning my internship in June, I have been hard at work researching Walmart’s policies, documenting workers’ stories, and organizing events.
My main task (of many) for this internship is to oversee the organizing of a nationwide series of events focusing on income inequality. These events will highlight workers and communities that are feeling the brunt of a widening wealth gap. With the Walton family as a poster child of furthering inequality, I am working with employees to call on Walmart to do better. While it is a challenge, every step toward promoting a more equitable and just society is a challenge worth facing. These events will help to build momentum for this year’s Black Friday strikes.
Moving down to Washington DC for this internship has been a very exciting experience. When I’m not working, I have been able to further my passion as an activist by joining with the plethora of local groups fighting injustices. I have made lots of new friends that join me in exploring the city for a good bite to eat and finding the best happy hour deals. I have also been able to continue my passion of playing and refereeing roller derby while also picking up a new hobby as a Rocky Horror Show shadow cast member. I would recommend interning in DC to anyone looking for a vibrant and active city.
- Tyler Mitchell, BSILR'15