On September 5 in cities across the country, members of the Organization United for Respect (OUR) at Wal-Mart, a division of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, helped organize and stage protests at Wal-Mart stores across the country – which included a step-dancing flash-mob style performance from UFCW local 1208’s Step Team at the Brier Creek Wal-Mart.
Sarah Baker, an intern with OUR Wal-Mart who works on the campaign as an organizer, was among those in attendance.
“[Thursday] was part of nationwide actions across the country to put pressure on Wal-Mart to rehire workers they illegally fired,” she said, “and also to put pressure on Wal-Mart to commit to publicly paying their workers a decent wage.”
Baker explained that in 2011, the association delivered a “declaration of respect” to the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., which stated that workers be paid a minimum of $13 per hour.
Baker described OUR Wal-Mart as an movement created by Wal-Mart employees for Wal-Mart employees, although she herself has never worked for the retailer.
The Step Team, she said, was composed of employees from the Smithfield pork processing plant in Tar Heel who are members of UFCW local 1208. The only current Wal-Mart employee who participated in the Brier Creek protest, she said, was an associate from a store in Elizabeth City, Cheryl Plowe.
Baker emphasized that the union is “in no way attempting to get Wal-Mart associates to become members of UFCW at this moment.”
She added that “UFCW isn’t attempting to get Wal-Mart to bargain with them as representatives of Wal-Mart associates.”
In the video seen above, Heysoll Rodriguez, an organizer with UFCW, alongside Secretary-Treasurer of the NC AFL-CIO MaryBe McMillan, director of the NC Justice Center’s Workers Rights Project Carol Brooke and others, attempted to deliver a petition to store managers at the Brier Creek Wal-Mart.
The petition had been signed by more than 170,000 people from across the country that demanded Wal-Mart rehire fired workers and pay existing workers a higher wage.
After store managers declined to accept the petition and asked the group to leave, members of UFCW local 1208’s Step Team sprung into action – loudly asking each other “Girl, did you know that Wal-Mart can fire me?” “For what?” “Standing up for my rights!” before breaking into a dance routine.
During the four-minute performance, which included refrains of “No justice! No peace!” employees, customers and managers can be seen watching with a mixture of pride, amusement and befuddlement.
Although police were eventually called to the store, no arrests were made.
“We were asked to leave the store and we did,” Baker said.