This Week in the Mercury


Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Pro-Worker Protest Gathers Outside Portland WalMart

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Fri, Nov 23, 2012 at 12:44 PM

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There are not many worse places to be than SE 82nd Avenue on Black Friday in the middle of a freezing cold rainstorm, but about 150 Portlanders braved the traffic and elements this morning to protest outside the city's only WalMart.

Though the protest is in support of a nationwide WalMart worker walkout, there were not actually any WalMart workers in the Portland protest—at least neither I nor protest organizers were able to find any.

An Occupy-led protest outside the store last night resulted in one arrest and four Portland police officers hovered around WalMart's front door this morning, but today's protest was a family-friendly affair with union members, East Portland neighbors, and little kids alike waving signs at traffic, chowing down on free donuts, and chanting, "WalMart equals poverty wages!" outside each entrance to the store's parking lot.

"I don't think it's fair that people have to work full time and still be on public assistance," said a Lents resident named Liz, whose four-year-old daughter drew her own sign for the protest (which appeared to read "Equal Pay" and be covered in flags).

Inside the store, business seemed to proceed as usual. WalMart is already proclaiming this the best Black Friday ever, but the Portland store didn't seem too crazed, with a steady crowd of shoppers trickling in. Shopper Brandy Simmons took a smoke break outside the store after failing to find the 47-inch TV she'd been hunting for. Simmons hadn't heard about the protest before today, but had heard about the worker pay issues. "I kind of agree," she said. "They work really hard at WalMart and they don't get paid as much as they should. Plus, they don't get paid overtime for today, because it's not technically a holiday."

WalMart is clearly eyeing an expansion in Portland, to the distaste of Mayor Sam Adams and city council. Commissioner Amanda Fritz was among the crowd this morning, replete in zebra-striped Wellies.

"We need good jobs in town, jobs with benefits," said Fritz. There's nothing city council can do to discourage WalMart's expansion in town or prod them to provide workers better wages, but the city did get the 82nd Avenue WalMart to sign a good neighbor agreeement, Commissioner Fritz noted.

Commissioner-elect Steve Novick was also on the scene, saying, "I'm thankful that we live in a city where this many people turn out to an anti-WalMart protest the day after Thanksgiving."

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