by Paul Bowers
On the day after Thanksgiving, near the geographic center of the Black Friday shopping bonanza in North Charleston, protesters will gather to demand better pay and responsible business practices from Walmart.
The protesters, who will hold signs and hand out flyers across the street from the Walmart by the Tanger Outlets, will be participating in a nationwide protest, with similar events taking place at Walmart locations across the country. The event is planned in coordination with the website MakingChangeAtWalmart.org.
Erin McKee, president of the Charleston Central Labor Council and an organizer of the protest, says it is unfair that many Walmart employees are forced to apply for food stamps and free or reduced-price lunches while Walmart executives and Walton family members are worth billions of dollars. She also objects to the way Walmart runs local stores out of business and demands low prices from suppliers, forcing manufacturing jobs overseas. "I think what we're really going to do is go out there and explain to the taxpayers that these cheap prices are not cheap," McKee says.
McKee says she got involved with the protest after it was proposed by members of Occupy Charleston. She is not aware of any other Walmart protests taking place in the Charleston area, but North Charleston is a conspicuous place for a protest. According to the City of North Charleston website, North Charleston has long led the state in retail sales, with the city's businesses handling $1 out of every $25 in retail sales in the state.
The protest will take place from 10 a.m. to noon on Fri. Nov. 23 at the corner of Center Point Drive and Tanger Outlet Boulevard. Some of the protesters will meet at the nearby IHOP for breakfast at 9 a.m. To read more about Walmart's impact on South Carolina, click here. To RSVP for the protest on Facebook, click here. Members of the group met with North Charleston police to tell them about their plans Monday, and they don't anticipate any arrests.