December 2, 2014
Black Friday, I joined 60 others from Plymouth, friends in the faith community, labor organizations and “The Raging Grannies,” to hold a vigil and demonstration in front of the Lynnwood Walmart Store. We were there to support Walmart workers and to call attention to Walmart’s treatment of its “Associates,” including low wages, lack of full-time hours, lack of benefits and a hostile, intimidating environment for anyone who complains.
We stood in cold, driving rain and wind that chilled us to the bone. We held up signs calling for a living wage for all and respect for all workers for nearly an hour and a half. We presented a sign to the store manager who, by company policy, must communicate our action to company headquarters. Several of us entered the store and handed out thank you notes to workers. Workers were deeply thankful for the gesture. “The Raging Grannies” led us in songs. It felt so good, so right, to stand there in front of the largest retail corporation in this country on the flagship holiday of American consumer culture to show our solidarity with and support of workers.
Someone handed me a sign that read “JESUS WAS A LOW WAGE WORKER.” I lifted it above my head to make it as visible as possible. As I stood there in the rain contemplating the message I held, I felt completely at home. A prophetic voice many times comes from the strong, eloquent oration of a charismatic leader. But our small, home-made signs wilting in the rain, are also prophetic messages that are meaningful and powerful because of our willingness to show up, stand up and speak up for justice. The campaign for living wages for all will likely necessitate many of these actions (hopefully in better weather). But I will remember this particular soggy, uncomfortable, yet transforming morning. I do not think Black Friday will ever be the same for me again. –Don Bell