Blackout Black Friday

People with shopping carts and items crowd a Walmart during Black Friday.
Daily Beast
Daily Beast 

The unofficial hub of the Great Resignation is the subreddit r/antiwork, which celebrates fed-up workers walking away from abusive managers, demanding customers, and dead-end jobs (Teen Vogue).  Goldman Sachs has warned that r/antiwork and anti-work sentiments may pose a “long-run risk” to labor force participation (Yahoo!). But when participating in the labor force poses long-run risks to the health and dignity of workers, something has gone wrong. r/antiwork users are calling for a post-Thanksgiving strike and boycott, Blackout Black Friday, to force higher wages for retail and hospitality workers (Reddit, Black Friday Blackout). Back the boycott to fight for racial and economic justice and support the working class on Black Friday.

Black Friday is the most “dreaded shift of the entire year” for retail workers, who face the wrath of deal-hungry customers during post-Thanksgiving shifts (Insider). Retail workers, disproportionately Black and Latinx, female, and living in poverty (Census), have witnessed people being whipped, trampled, pepper-sprayed, stabbed, and shot in the course of Black Friday shopping (Black Friday Death Count). In 2008, the worker opening the doors of a Long Island Walmart was crushed to death by a stampede of customers. When management tried to close the store afterward, “customers shouted angrily and kept shopping” (The Guardian). 

TAKE ACTION

Support Blackout Black Friday by abstaining from work or shopping. Encourage people in your community to do the same. 

Share Blackout Black Friday information on your social media accounts or in your community.

Defend your coworkers and be a respectful customer to support the working class on Black Friday and during the rest of the year.

And this year’s Black Friday comes after long months of escalating customer terrible behavior. Over the past year, six out of ten restaurant workers reported receiving abuse and disrespect from customers. Eight out of ten said their mental health has suffered. Workers enforcing mask mandates have had screaming customers call them traitors and communists (Fox Business). Restaurant workers are forced to duck down behind counters to surreptitiously sneak a meal during long shifts (Daily Dot). 

But after decades of wage stagnation, low-wage workers finally have the leverage to demand better working conditions. And it’s Black and Latinx workers who stand to gain the most, making the least in retail (Demos) and food service jobs. Blackout Black Friday organizers are staging a coordinated, nationwide action to pressure companies to pay more to the workers without whom no business could operate. 

This action has two components: a boycott where customers refuse to patronize businesses and a strike where workers refuse to work. Combining these tactics has historically been successful in the fight for racial and economic justice. This approach has resulted in fundamental changes from the United Farm Workers’ Delano grape strike and boycott (NPS) to the Memphis sanitation strike that Dr. King spoke in favor of the night before his murder (King Institute). 

“Workers are in the driver’s seat for the first time in 30 years,” said one economist, though he expects this to wane in the coming year (MSN). That means we have a crucial opportunity to raise the wage floor for workers, especially workers of color, who have been left behind for decades. Those scheduled to work on Friday should consider staying home, whereas prospective customers should abstain this year.

It’s also important to acknowledge that sales are the most impactful for those with the lowest incomes. There’s no reason to shame the working class on Black Friday for searching and wanting affordable gifts or necessities (Mother Jones). Also, there’s no excuse for the glee that some affluent people derive from watching the “economic underclass scrap it out for doorbusters (ThinkProgress). The “underclass” is composed of workers who try to obtain a quality of life that isn’t afforded to them 364 days out of the year.

The solution to mass inequality is raising the share of wealth that accrues to poor and working-class people. That is precisely what Blackout Black Friday hopes to accomplish. And those with more economical means can play an outsized role by refusing to shop this year. If possible, staying home with your family or community is a concrete way to support the working class this holiday season.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Employees are often abused and mistreated by customers, especially on Black Friday. 
  • Many workers are now leaving inadequate jobs, driving wages up for everyone. Some are calling to Blackout Black Friday to win more benefits and respect for employees nationwide. 
  • Strikes and boycotts have long been used to advance racial as well as economic justice.

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