Walmart Black Friday 2012

It’s the retail behemoth’s most visible and important day. That’s why Walmart workers will be joining the frenzied throngs outside 1.000 locations on Friday to demand better treatment. Winston Ross reports.
Walmart shoppers planning their stampede survival tactics on Black Friday will find they have new company in the predawn hours – workers wielding picket signs.
Despite decades of failed unionization attempts and the company’s alleged retaliation against those who demand better pay, health care, and more hours, workers are planning to strike or conduct some other form of protest outside at least 1.000 locations across the United States on Friday, adding a new dimension of chaos to an already harrowing day for bargain hunters.

Walmart Black Friday 2012
Walmart Black Friday.

It looks like a spate of walkouts Wal-Mart workers have planned for Black Friday will go on. The Bentonville (Ark.)-based company had accused the workers of illegal picketing last Friday, making a rare complaint to the National Labor Relations Board. The company asked the board to issue an injunction to stop the strikes in their tracks. While the NLRB usually takes months to issue a decision, officials said they made this case a high priority.
The NLRB weighed in on Tuesday afternoon, with a statement that isn’t going to make either party particularly pleased. Citing the complexity of the case at hand, the NLRB decided to put off a decision until after Thanksgiving. “The legal issues—including questions about what constitutes picketing and whether the activity was aimed at gaining recognition for the union—are complex” – NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said in a statement. “The Memphis Office expects to complete its investigation tomorrow (Wednesday). Because of the complexity of the case, it will then be sent to the NLRB Division of Advice in Washington, D.C., for further analysis. Under these circumstances, the Office of General Counsel does not expect to make a decision before Thursday on whether or not to seek an injunction to stop the activity.”

Walmart workers are planning to strike at 1.000 stores nationwide on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.
And the campaign has gathered considerable support online – with over $50.000 raised for striking workers and support from groups ranging from MoveOn.org to the National Organization of Women to various Latino, African American and interfaith groups.
“I think the plight of the Walmart workers has turned into a social movement of itself” – Patrick O’Neill, executive vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, said on HuffPost Live Tuesday. In the last 10 to 15 years, he said, “with workers going backwards and the top one percent getting fatter and fatter, workers – whether work at Walmart or not – they can relate to Walmart workers.”
OUR Walmart, a group that like a union for Walmart workers and that is funded by the UFCW, is coordinating the strikes Friday. All Walmart workers in the U.S. remain without an official union.
HuffPost LA’s Kathleen Miles said that strikers’ demands for improved wages, health care and protected speech have implications beyond just Walmart. “Separate from Black Friday profits, this is a larger statement of the whole retail industry” – Miles said. “The retail industry in the next decade is expected to have more jobs than any other industry. And Walmart is the leader… the largest retailer in the world. All chain retailers have low wages, but Walmart sets that standard.”

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