As if the annual reports of riots, tramplings and other bad behavior aren’t enough, Black Friday 2012 may be even uglier than usual at Walmart.
Walmart employees from 28 stores in 12 different cities staged a walkout on Tuesday, rallying against the retail giant with claims of unfair labor practices and retaliation against employees who try to organize. Strike organizers United Food and Commercial Workers Making Change At Walmart (UFCW) and affiliated group OUR Walmart warn that if their demands are not met, a Black Friday strike is imminent.
“We feel like if they refuse to listen to our proposition we will make sure that on Black Friday we will take action inside and outside of stores,” said Colby Harris, a 22 year old Walmart worker from Dallas, Texas and OUR Walmart member. “We’ll make it known that Walmart’s deadline is Black Friday,” he added. Strike plans may include picketing, leaflets and flash mobs.
Dan Schlademan, a UFCW official, told Salon that to avert the Black Friday actions, Walmart must “end the retaliation,” including rehiring workers who allegedly were fired for speaking out.
If no resolution is reached by Black Friday, Terri O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, says that NOW members will join striking Walmart employees on the picket lines on Black Friday, asking customers “whether they really want to spend their dollars on a company that treats workers this way.” NOW’s involvement in the strike appears to be related to a class action lawsuit brought by current and former female employees alleging gender discrimination. The case landed in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was eventually dismissed. Support for a Walmart Black Friday strike also comes from the National Consumers League and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
“These strikes are an attempt by the unions to further their own political and financial agendas,” said David Tovar, Walmart VP of communications in an interview with The Huffington Post. ”More than half of Walmart’s one million hourly store associates have an hourly wage at least $10.00 or higher. In fact, in many metropolitan areas in which we operate, our entry level start rates regularly exceeds that of new hires for comparable positions under the UFCW contracts.”
Walmart is no stranger to controversy, from allegations of retaliation against activist employees to the recent firing of an elderly greeter who instinctively grabbed onto the clothing of a customer who pushed her as she fell.
With a possible strike looming at Walmart and Target refusing to participate in the holiday price wars, who will come out on top in the Black Friday race? If a Walmart Black Friday strike happens, then we’re looking for Target to take the prize. Their press release about holiday prices came early enough in the shopping season to be largely forgotten by November 23rd. We’re also betting on Kohl’s and JC Penney making significant gains as they pick up a share of the shoppers who would have gone to Walmart otherwise.
Where will you shop if Walmart workers strike on Black Friday? Take our poll and tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
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