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Seasons Grievances: Walmart Workers Threaten Black Friday Walkout

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By , dealnews contributor

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 Protests

Black 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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Lou Carlozo is a dealnews contributing writer. He covers personal finance for Reuters Wealth. Prior to that he was the managing editor of WalletPop.com, and is a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune.

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7 comments
Tbarr95
Wow! 
Here in Washington state Wall mart is one of the largest employers
AND has the most employees receiving some kind of  State Welfare!
While the company makes hundreds of BILLIONS!
Get a clue folks
tylerstravis
FIRE THEM!

People are begging for jobs and these fools are willing to risk theirs to make even more than what they already don't deserve?  There are plenty of morons to fill those spots.  It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to fill a Walmart greeter position.  
mike01001
I'm confused. I thought only unionized workers could strike. If these people want to call in sick feel free. I may just show up at midnight just to cross the pseudo picket line. And who is more greedy the corporations which supply low priced goods to us or union leaders, who's sole purpose is to antagonize employees and collect dues for a small amount of work? Take a look at their salaries in comparison to managers at these businesses. So much for defending the 'little guy'.
CousinDave
Sounds like a joke to me
Dom2please
These workers are nuts.  Thanks to the glorious leader 15% of people who want to work can't find jobs.  I won't argue most Wal-Mart jobs are low waged, but then someone has to hire the high school drop outs, and the ones thrown off welfare for drugs. 

They should bring ALL their employees in on Friday, Black Friday, can't have to many workers to round up the shoppers.  Then the ones who do not show up can find their way to the unemployment office. 
ELURIE
Why dont they organze into a legal union? Oh right! Walmart would just close the stores. It is really hard to form a union without card check. Another failed promise by the Democrats and Obama! Dont tell me the Republicans blocked it. The Democrats had a majority the first 2 years. Throw them all out.
markathey
Would have avoided Walmart anyway.
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