By DON McINTOSH, Associate Editor
If there’s growing worker unrest at Walmart, Portland got a taste of it on Nov. 29, Black Friday, when two Walmart workers from Klamath Falls made an appearance at a morning protest rally outside the Walmart store on Southeast 82nd Ave.
About 100 demonstrators gathered there to show support for Walmart workers. It was one of 1,600 protests nationwide, according to the group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), which is backed by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
“I’m not afraid any more,” said Jennifer Sanchez, who went out on strike two days earlier along with her husband Ismael Nuñez and one other co-worker, Brian Garlock. Sanchez, 37, told the Labor Press she struck once before, in June, and showed co-workers that it was possible. “Now I know that we have the right to strike even though we’re not in a union.”
This time, Sanchez and her husband traveled the state to draw attention to practices at the company, appearing in Klamath Falls Nov. 26, Medford Nov. 27, and Portland Nov. 28. Garlock, the third Klamath Falls Walmart striker, wasn’t able to travel the state because of his second job at Pizza Hut.
The immediate cause of this strike is to protest retaliatory discipline against previous strikers, the subject of unfair labor practice charges pending before the National Labor Relations Act. Federal labor law bars employers from disciplining workers who strike to protest unfair labor practices.
Sanchez said no one at her store has been fired for strike activity, so her decision to strike was primarily in support of workers elsewhere.
“They’ve been retaliating across the country when we speak up about low wages,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez and Nuñez have been Walmart stockers for 11 years. They work full time and make $14.88 an hour. They have health insurance through Walmart, but the $5,000 deductible makes it unaffordable to use.
The Klamath Falls workers ended their strike Saturday and went back to work without incident.