This Black Friday, as millions of Americans scramble to find the “best deals” on consumer goods, thousands of Chinese manufacturing workers are striking to demand livable wages, job security, and other basic rights. In Huangjiang alone, 8,000 striking shoe factory workers took the streets Thursday, blocking roads and standing down lines of riot police. Their factory, owned Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings, is a major provider to the sportswear company New Balance.
It seems fair to say these workers are striking for a “new balance” with their management, and the system of global exploitation that management serves. Facing police repression and media censorship, striking Chinese workers are standing up against the same unfair economic system we are fighting on Wall Street and across the world. Today, Occupiers everywhere are standing up to Boycott Black Friday in an effort to raise awareness about the exploitation and inequalities that produce the goods Americans purchase.
In a rush to get the best deals on merchandise, some shoppers in the U.S. have already turned on one another. News agencies are reporting that a woman in California pepper-sprayed another group of shoppers so she could get a better place in line. This is exactly what the 1% wants: They don’t have to pepper-spray the 99% in the United States, because we are pepper-spraying one another, and we are too distracted by consumption to notice that the majority of the products we buy in North America are being produced by workers who are struggling for their basic rights abroad.
We offer an alternative. Countless Occupations have called for a nationwide boycott in support of Buy Nothing Day. Last night, members of Occupy Chicago joined camp-outs in front of department stores like Sears and Best Buy, hoping to start dialog with shoppers while also highlighting the hypocrisy that the government is allowing people to camp in public if they have money to spend on a brand new flat screen TV, but violently attacking homeless people and protesters who camp in public to protest economic inequality. Today, Chicogoans are planning to carol around the downtown shopping district.
Meanwhile, Occupy Atlanta, including many former employees of large retailers, mic-checked crowds of Black Friday shoppers around midnight last night, while Occupy Portland and surrounding cities planned to Occupy a Wal-Mart (but not buy anything) today. Occupy Boston, Occupy DC, and other cities are hosting “Really Really Free Markets” to share goods with whomever needs them, proving that another world — and an economy where we take care of one another’s needs instead of corporate profits — is possible. Here in New York, there is a march leaving at 2pm from Liberty Square to Foley Square to mark Black Friday.
Workers in China, in the U.S., and everywhere deserve fair compensation and an equal share in the prosperity our labor produces. In a season defined by consumption and consumerism, we stand in solidarity with the workers of China, and with all those who rise up for the global 99%!