Citing “an estimated 1,600 actions and strikes at Walmart locations around the country,” the AFL-CIO claimed this week that last week’s Black Friday protests were the “biggest ever for Walmart workers.”
Claims about the number of protests are highly suspect but, given that numerous actions of some kind did occur, it is far more interesting to examine the extent to which actual Walmart employees participated.
At least in Washington state, the limited “protests” for a $15-an-hour minimum wage appeared to be primarily the work of local United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union affiliates, not actual Walmart employees. The UFCW is the organizing force behind the front group OUR Walmart, which is orchestrating the protests.
For instance, UFCW Local 367, which represents about 7,000 retail clerks in Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Pacific, Grays Harbor, and Mason Counties, tweeted a series of images of protestors in front of various Walmart locations on Black Friday.
Many of the same individuals appear repeatedly in the photos. All told, it appears that about 17 different individuals participated in at least one of the eight “actions” at local Walmarts.
At least three of these 17 are currently employed by UFCW 367. Actual Walmart employees are pictured in only one image, and it is unclear if they are actively participating in the protest or merely conversing with activists.
Pictured union staff include Brandon Bennett, Regina Stanton and Tonia Maria Rosario. According to UFCW 367’s 2013 LM-2 report to the U.S. Department of Labor, all three are paid UFCW employees.
While not identified in UFCW 367’s tweets, a little digging confirmed the identities of the union activists.
Brandon Bennett: Union Rep
A March, 2014 Facebook post by UFCW 367 provides an image of Brandon Bennett, who appears to be one of the people featured in UFCW 367’s tweets about the Black Friday protests.
Bennett is holding the sign that says “stop” in the top image and is the gentleman to the right in the bottom image.
Regina Stanton: Union Rep
The same person appears to be featured in every one of UFCW 367’s Black Friday tweets.
Tania Maria Rosario: Staff Director
A person strongly resembling Rosario appears in two of the protest images.
Union Staff: Brandon Bennett (far left) and Regina Stanton (far right)
Union Staff: Regina Stanton (second from the left) and Brandon Bennett (far right)
Union Staff: Regina Stanton (left) and Brandon Bennett (right)
Union Staff: Tania Maria Rosario (fourth from the right, front row) and Regina Stanton (far right, back row)
Union Staff: Regina Stanton (second from left) and Brandon Bennett (second from right, crouching)
Union Staff: Regina Stanton (left)
Union Staff: Regina Stanton (center)
Union Staff: Regina Stanton (far left) and Tania Maria Rosario (second from right)
Last year, the Freedom Foundation documented how, far from being Walmart associates, activists arrested at a Black Friday Walmart protest in Bellevue all had ties to organized labor or other progressive groups.
Given the latest round of protests, our assessment at the time appears to remain accurate. Far from being a worker-centric uprising against Walmart, the Black Friday protests appear to be simply another union-orchestrated publicity campaign seeking to pressure Walmart towards unionization.