While retail junkies prepare to fight the crowds on Black Friday, Wal-Mart may be seeing their biggest protest from employees in their history. A demand for better wages and more flexible hours may cause shoppers to seek deals elsewhere.
Wal-Mart employees in the Seattle area began to protest as early as November 15, due to outrage at the earlier launch of this year’s Black Friday event. Wal-Mart stores will now open their doors at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day to include “Black Thursday.” Wal-Mart has more than 4,000 stores and employs 1.4 million people. With that in mind, this strike has the potential to cause a major upset to the nation’s biggest retailer.
Kory Lundberg, director of National Media Relations for Wal-Mart, clarified that Black Friday will still go on via email correspondence with ABCnews.com.
"We've been working on our Black Friday plans for almost a year now, and we're prepared to have a great event. We respect the rights of our associates to express their views but if they are scheduled to work, we expect them to show up and do their job,” said Lundberg.
The corporate heads of Wal-Mart have retaliated against the protest and have filed a complaint against one of the largest labor unions in the nation. The United Food Commercial Workers International Union includes millions of Wal-Mart employees who have participated in protests across the country. Wal-Mart responded to UFCW, claiming the union has violated labor union laws by unlawfully picketing and intimidating customers and other employees. The multi-billion dollar corporation has since asked the National Labor Relations Board for their involvement.
Wal-Mart employees are fighting for fewer health care expenses and increased wages. Employees want to raise their wages to $13 an hour. (In the same email, Lundberg claims that the national minimum wage average for Wal-Mart employees is $12.57.) In order for employees to be successful, they will have to invite participation from the masses.
Will a national Wal-Mart strike effect shopper turnout? Probably not. It will be highly unlikely that protesters will convince shoppers to go elsewhere. The reality is that devout shoppers are focused on hunting for the best deals for the latest gadgets, and will most likely not be concerned with unfair working conditions. While threats still loom for tomorrow and Black Friday, the protests are unlikely to interfere with the biggest shopping day of the year.