In protest of paltry hours and defiance of firings, over 80 Wal-Mart workers in Hialeah, Florida walk off the job

Dozens of workers at a Florida Wal-Mart walked off the job last week, mounting the first Wal-Mart store work stoppage since the firings of twenty workers who participated in an extended June strike.

“I don’t have fear,” striker Jose Bello told Salon in Spanish. “I don’t have any fear. They could punish us – we’re used to that.” Bello said that at least eighty of the employees at his Hialeah, Florida store had joined the strike, which began at 9 AM. Wal-Mart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I decided a long time ago to do this, but we needed to come together as a group to make the decision,” said Bello. He described the strike as a response to “abuse and discrimination” by managers, as well as insufficient hours. “I have four years here,” he said, and “they’re give me twenty-nine hours…as a human being, I want forty hours.” Bello told Salon that workers met Thursday and decided to strike.

As Salon first reported, workers last fall mounted the first-ever coordinated US Wal-Mart strikes, including a high-profile “Black Friday” walk-out the day after Thanksgiving. The group behind those strikes was OUR Walmart, a non-union labor group closely tied to the United Food & Commercial Workers union, which has demanded improvements to wages and working conditions and an end to alleged retaliation for workers’ activism.

Wal-Mart allegedly stepped up its pushback against workers’ organizing this summer: Following a several-day strike and caravan to the company’s June shareholder meeting in Arkansas, Wal-Mart issued discipline against over seventy strikers, including twenty terminations. The company has said it was enforcing its attendance policy and not illegally targeting strikers. Since then, OUR Walmart has staged civil disobedience protests against the company and its board members, and announced plans for another major Black Friday strike next month. But today’s strike is the first by US Wal-Mart employees since the firing wave began.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in Miami in my life,” said Muhammed Malik, who identified himself as a local community activist. “There are people coming out of stores. There are customers who are joining.” He said the number of strikers appeared to be growing as more employees chose to follow their co-workers’ example. “It’s kind of raw,” he said with a laugh. “A lot of us just kind of showed up as soon as we heard about it.”

“I’m sure it’s not just here, but also in other Wal-Marts…” said Bello. “The less hours they give us, the more work they make us do.”

This piece first appeared in Salon.com