By Noah H. Evans
It all began at a Thanksgiving Day clergy family meet-up at the local playground in Medford, Massachusetts. We all talked–three Episcopal and two Unitarian Universalist clergy families–as our kids played. We talked about our congregations, families who were visiting for the holidays, and about the awful commercialism of the coming season. Rampant consumption has led to environmental crisis as well as massive income inequality, the cost of which is suffered by some of our society’s most vulnerable people. Someone finally said, “Hey, want to Occupy Walmart tomorrow?” With facebook and tweeting started at the playground, the movement continued and by the time we all had sat down to our various Thanksgiving dinners, we had recruited six cars full of people to join us. Our group will include four kindergarteners and two preschoolers—offering them a vision for a world in which they know how to make themselves heard.
This year on Black Friday, we are standing with Walmart workers who are picketing at over 1000 stores across the country. On Friday morning, at 9:00AM, my family and I will join Walmart workers in front of the North Reading, Massachusetts Walmart Store. We will stand in solidarity with their cause, and help to give their suffering a voice and honor the courage of picketing Walmart employees. We will give the luxury we have been blessed with of an extra day off to help give rights to the 1.4 million Walmart workers in the United States right now.
Walmart is our nation’s largest employer, bringing in more than $16 billion in profits last year, mostly going to its corporate shareholders. Walmart workers struggle with low wages, positions without benefits, and negligible job security. Walmart has fought against efforts to unionize and is now taking action against picketing workers across the country. Because of its size and market strength, what happens with Walmart has ramifications far beyond the company. It will affect workers at other retailers and in other sectors as well.
By the end of the day Walmart will have made millions in sales and profits, but many Walmart workers will not be able to make ends meet, and many will go without the basic necessities of food and clothing. The call to stand for justice and in solidarity with those without a voice is throughout our sacred stories. This coming Sunday, we will proclaim that Christ is King, not corporate interests or shareholder profits. We will stand in the Walmart parking lot in hope of the world were justice rolls down like waters, and were the dignity of every human being is recognized. And hopefully, our kids will learn their own power to speak up and make a difference in the world. That will be something to give thanks for!