Marble Falls How could something called “Black Friday” ever be seen as a good thing? When I hear the phrase, I hear echoes of the stock market crash signaling the Great Depression. I try to remember what terrorist event was connected to those words. I have a little shudder at what seems the implicit racism that overshadows the term. Admittedly, that’s just me. Black Friday in the US retail industry is the day – or more recently “days” plural, as the sales seem to stretch out everywhere like octopus tendrils – when stores mint money as people waddle away from Thanksgiving feasts, waving dollar bills and credit cards, to march into stores searching for sales to check off on their Christmas lists. For me, this is a good day to stay away, but I often wonder, especially this year, “who are these people?”
According to the Federal Reserve, it’s not lower-income and working people, at least not this year. Savings built up over the pandemic are mostly gone, if they existed at all. Of the $1.7 trillion in savings amassed in that period, most went to higher income families with only $350 million or so in other pockets. With inflation and dealing with the necessities of life, most of that is now gone, and credit card balances are now higher than they were in 2019 before the pandemic.
For the mega-retailers, the woes of regular people are mainly background noise. This is when Amazon, Walmart, and the rest look to score big. It’s also why organizers for a number of years now have tried to seize the time and highlight the exploitive conditions that are also the hallmark of Amazon in dealing with its workers, foremost, but really across the board.
ACORN along with some of our affiliates, including ReAct Transnational, and ACORN India, joined a campaign called Make Amazon Pay, organized by UNI, the global labor federation. On Black Friday, the campaign claims that there will be actions in forty countries around the globe. Certainly, we’ll be taking part in Delhi, where Janaphal has planned an action. The point is bringing attention to Amazon practices.
Is it effective? That’s a harder question to answer. Certainly, the organizing drives, initiated by the independent Amazon Labor Union, and elections conducted at Amazon warehouses by the NLRB in New York, where the union won one and lost one on Staten Island, and lost one more recently in Albany, have attracted attention to the workers’ struggles with the company. The general campaign is valuable in keeping labor united, even as it fights for visibility amidst the tsunami of advertising and marketing by Amazon and others trying to make the sales.
Organizationally, the coming year will tell whether or not our moment has passed to organize Amazon to not only pay, but also to provide more justice on the job, but in the meantime, giving the company the cold shoulder on Black Friday is an easy ask, so hopefully many will do this light lift.