An ex-Walmart worker claimed he was handcuffed by the police Wednesday after talking to current employees about a planned Black Friday strike at the store where he worked in Orlando, Fla.
Alex Rivera said local police handcuffed him and held him inside the store for 20 minutes after Walmart managers told police that Rivera had signed a document prohibiting him from returning to the store. Rivera, a member of labor organization OUR Walmart, said he's been inside the store since he was fired in September to discuss worker actions and has been asked to leave. He complied with requests to leave, he said, but never signed anything agreeing not to trespass. The incident was first reported by The Nation.
"Its hard, but it doesnt mean because I got arrested I'm going to stop what I'm doing and working with associates," Rivera told the The Huffington Post. "I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing to make sure that Walmart gets their message."
Rivera said police released him without charges, but gave him a trespass warning.
Walmart denied its managers misled the police. "This is just another exaggerated publicity campaign aimed at generating headlines to mislead our customers and associates." Kory Lundberg, a company spokesman, wrote in an e-mail statement. "The fact is, these ongoing tactics being orchestrated by the [United Food and Commercial Workers union] are unlawful and we will act to protect our associates and customers from this ongoing illegal conduct."
Rivera said he was at the store to educate workers about planned strikes on Black Friday, the busiest day of the year for most retailers. The job actions are being organized by OUR Walmart, a group of Walmart workers backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, of which Rivera is a member. Rivera has said that after he joined OUR Walmart three years into his career at the retailer, the company began treating him differently. He was fired two months later. Walmart workers aren’t unionized.
The planned Black Friday protests follow the first retail worker strikes against Walmart last month that spread to more than 12 states. Issues include pay, benefits and retaliation against workers who speak out against working conditions.
Adding another dimension to the workers’ complaints: Walmart is opening its doors at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, meaning that many employees will have to miss some of the holiday with their families to work.
Rivera said the Orlando store, where he used to work, will participate in the Black Friday actions. He said expects about 100 people to attend.
"We're not even able to spend Thanksgiving with our families because of Walmart's decision to start Black Friday sale early," Rivera said.
Target workers have organized online petitions protesting that retailer’s 9 p.m. opening on Thanksgiving. One petition on Change.org had already garnered more than 160,000 supporters as of earlier this week. Walmart is just one of many major retailers starting Black Friday on Thursday; Kmart, Sears and Toys R Us are also opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, according to the Guardian.