Seasons Grievances: Walmart Workers Threaten Black Friday Walkout
If there's one date on which Walmart stands to make a lot of money — even more than usual — it's Black Friday. But Walmart could also stand to lose big this year and suffer a public relations black eye to boot, if employees make good on a threat to walk off the job on November 23.
The Huffington Post reported last week that at least 88 employees at 28 Walmarts in 12 different cities walked out of work October 9, and the group behind the protesters warned that their campaign would come to a head on Black Friday. The United Food and Commercial Workers' Making Change at Walmart organization wants the mega-box retailer to address its unfair labor practices, including low worker pay.
And while 88 workers represent a sliver of the 1.4 million people Walmart employs worldwide, any sort of work stoppage on Black Friday could cripple select stores, and create bad publicity on a day when Walmart can least afford it.
Potential Black Friday Walmart ProtestsBlack Friday protests could include "non-violent action, from flash mobs to strikes to public awareness," said Colby Harris, a Dallas Walmart worker and member of OUR Walmart, a UFCW-backed worker organization affiliated with the Making Change group. Harris also told the Huffington Post that, "We'll make it known that Walmart's deadline is Black Friday."
If a Walmart worker strike does take place on Black Friday, the chain's loyal shoppers could face a troubling dilemma: to either cross picket lines to grab holiday goods, or take their shopping needs elsewhere, even if prices are higher and stock is lower.
Yet with aggressive seasonal hiring, it's also possible Walmart could effectively sidestep the efforts of the UFCW. The Arkansas-based retailer certainly the resources on hand to do it. Walmart has seen net sales rise every year since at least 2007 — to a staggering $419 billion in 2011, according to the company's annual report. That's more than the GNP of Greece and Thailand combined.
Still, Walmart may have to ultimately address concerns from protesters and disgruntled workers who stay on the job. After all, Black Friday is a time of year when employees' nerves fray faster than a sales circular caught under the trampling feet of bargain hunters.
Last year, workers at Target kicked up a fuss when that chain opened its doors at midnight on Black Friday and more than 86,000 irate Target workers took to the Internet to protest though no strikes ensued. While working hours on Black Friday are not at issue in the Walmart protest, the Target petition also draws attention to just how important Black Friday has become for retailers. The UFCW organizers acknowledge that any threatened Black Friday action is a surefire means to getting employee concerns heard and addressed.
If Walmart's alleged unfair labor practices cause a strike, will that impact your Black Friday shopping? Are Walmart's low prices enough to entice consumers shopping both in-store and online, despite the retailer's current labor situation? Sound off in the comments below.
Front page photo credit: That's the Hookup
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