Employees at more than 1000 Walmart stores throughout the US are planning a labor showdown on Black Friday. The workers are joining a troubling trend for the discount super store. Walmart is notriously anti-union, but they have a reason to be. Workers complain about excessively low wages, dismal raises, long hours, low benefits and a plethora of other worker complaints. The workers want to show Walmart they have had enough.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Walmart announced plans to open their stores at 8:00pm on Thanksgiving. Workers finally declared they had enough and joined those already planning to strike.
The Black Friday strikes are being supported by organized labor, who have tried for years to get a foot hold into Walmart. Walmart is so anti-union they show all new hires a video which discourages them from forming unions. Walmart is so sure of their position that they filed an injunction with the National Labor Relations Board to get the strike ruled illegal. Walmart’s charge alleges that the United Food Commercial Workers (UFCW) union is responsible for illegal “representational” picketing – that is, strikes designed to win union recognition from Walmart. Labor law generally forbids unions from engaging in representational pickets for more than thirty days (the US Supreme Court does not apply the same First Amendment protections to labor picketing as it does to “God Hates Fags” pickets at funerals).
Steven Greenhouse and Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times say that the injunction is proof that Walmart is really scared of the strikers. They say:
“Labor experts caution that the complaint, filed on Thursday, could be meant as a warning shot to discourage workers from participating since the labor relations board often takes months to make a ruling, but it nonetheless reflects how seriously the company has come to view a group that it had once dismissed as a nuisance…
“All this points to an increasingly fierce contest between Walmart and labor groups that are bent on mobilizing and organizing the company’s work force, with a near-term goal of pressing for higher wages and a longer-term goal of emboldening workers to demand a union.”
Other commentators say this strike could completely backfire by showing how strong Walmart is and not how weak they are. Customers will still flock to Walmart and purchase en masse on Black Friday regardless of workers complaints.
Occupy Wall Street, 99 Pickets, ALIGN, Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping, Retail Action Project, and other allies will occupy a Walmart store in North Jersey in solidarity with the workers, while Occupy chapters nationwide are also planning demonstrations.
How do you feel the strikes will affect Walmart’s business?