The other war: Black Friday at Wal-Mart

posted at 3:31 pm on November 18, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

This week we will once again observe an annual ritual familiar to families across the nation, where people gather together for one, sincere purpose: beating other shoppers to a pulp in an effort to cash in on big savings. (What… you thought I was talking about Thanksgiving?) Black Friday is once again approaching, and it’s quickly becoming as controversial as any political event. Personally speaking, I haven’t left the house on Black Friday in a decade unless it was to travel back home from a Thanksgiving visit with family, and I certainly don’t go anywhere near any malls or shopping centers.

As always, Wal-Mart is a big player in the Black Friday follies, this year pushing the envelope to start their annual sale before the clock even turns over from Turkey Day. While this may have some shoppers feeling excited, a number of their workers are less than thrilled. And union organizers – thus far unable to make any inroads there – are planning some dirty tricks.

A group of Wal-Mart workers are planning to stage a walkout next week on Black Friday, arguably the biggest holiday shopping day for the world’s largest retail store.

The walkout builds on an October strike that started at a Wal-Mart in Los Angeles and spread to stores in 12 other cities. More than 100 workers joined in the October actions.

This has been brewing for a while, as the article notes, and the workers clearly want to cause the most pain and mayhem possible for the giant retailer by hitting them on their highest traffic day of the year. But will they be able to get enough of their colleagues to join them in numbers that will have any real impact? Wal-Mart seems to be betting they won’t, and they’re taking the instigators to court.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is taking its first legal step to stop months of protests and rallies outside Walmart stores, targeting the union that it says is behind such actions.

Wal-Mart filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW, asking the National Labor Relations Board to halt what the retailer says are unlawful attempts to disrupt its business.

The move comes just a week before what is expected to be the largest organized action against the world’s largest retailer, as a small group of Walmart workers prepare to strike on Black Friday, typically the busiest shopping day of the year.

“We are taking this action now because we cannot allow the UFCW to continue to intentionally seek to create an environment that could directly and adversely impact our customers and associates,” Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said on Friday. “If they do, they will be held accountable.”

Frankly, the unions seem to have done a terrible job up and down the line when it comes to Wal-Mart. If what they were offering workers was really that popular, they’d already be in. But they do manage to get the media and a number of politicians on their side, with claims that Wal-Mart jobs aren’t “real jobs” and stories of how the big chain stores continue to drive small business owners out of the market.

But if nothing else, this makes Black Friday worth watching, at least for those of us who won’t be doing any shopping. It will be interesting to see how this protest works out, how many people participate and what the response will be from management. Besides, there won’t be any football on that day anyway.


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I have worked at Wal Mart (from late March to early June of this year) and years before that regularly worked on Christmas, New Years, etc as a private security guard in Washington DC (when I lived in suburban MD).

The difference between those two jobs is this. As a private security guard your entry pay was about $9-$10 and for holidays that you worked you earned OT wages. And you almost always could get a day off WHENEVER you wanted to-due to the inherent stress of the job most time off requests were honored by management (who were former DC police officers and military vets).

As a Wal-Mart employee you are paid next to nothing and your job is sheer unadulterated drudgery. Yes you do have health benefits as a part time employee…..after 12 stinking months and their HMO plan stinks on ice (at least where I live).

Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years are the very few times that retail employees really get to spend with family and the stupidity of consumers to insist on having the stores open ON THANKSGIVING is mindboggling.

Management (of Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, etc) should have held firm and let their employees have at least a few hours with family.

SgtSVJones on November 18, 2012 at 6:20 PM

Thanksgiving is my least favorite day. We cook for days. Everything is eaten in 30 minutes and we still have to clean up a big ole mess. I wish I could work and make double! My husbands familly includes several nurses and sone pharmacists. They always work the holidays and we work around them. Personally I wont be going anywhere near a store on friday. We’re having a simple christmas this year.

ldbgcoleman on November 18, 2012 at 6:23 PM

Burke on November 18, 2012 at 5:18 PM

SgtSVJones on November 18, 2012 at 6:20 PM

BocaJuniors on November 18, 2012 at 4:18 PM

You get it. Hallelujah!

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. A sociological/cultural celebration/feast day focusing on thanks to God and shared with family.

It boggles my mind that so many “conservatives” don’t get that this a a piece of the Culture War they can actually win.

It’s like most of the people weighing in today want Lucy to yank the the football on them.

Good grief, indeed.

Bruno Strozek on November 18, 2012 at 6:34 PM

I worked on holidays for years. If I knew the pay was increased for working on a holiday, I definitely would volunteer if I were not on the schedule. I have family members working this Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve – as they do every year. Some for extra pay, some not.

I have empathy for those who work on holidays. But I also have empathy for those who have been out of work or have an unemployed spouse and they need the money to live. People are volunteering for extra hours at my office to make more money. If you fill out a job application to work at a service-sector job, you should have a clue that you will be working weekends and at least partial holidays. Stores would not be open if there were no demand.

Philly on November 18, 2012 at 6:36 PM

Two events that I make it a point to avoid: shopping on Black Friday and going out on New Year’s Eve.

onlineanalyst on November 18, 2012 at 6:40 PM

I’m not going out on Black Thursday/Friday or New Year’s Eve, either. Spending time with family.

Philly on November 18, 2012 at 6:43 PM

What does ALyT think about this?

I have been wondering.

I had a coin machine route where every Sunday and Thursday I had to work.

No…matter…what.

Cops work on holidays. So do firemen, hospital workers and even peons at sporting events (my wife was one of those).

cozmo on November 18, 2012 at 6:54 PM

You can avoid having to don the ballistic vest and football pads and strapping that smokewagon to your ankle — or carrying that truncheon on your hip — or that blackjack in your pocket for Black Friday.

Anything and everything you can get in person at Wal-Mart on Black Friday is available for the exact same prices online. Subject to supply and demand of course. Just like in person.

It’s pretty much the same way for all big retailers.

You don’t even have to leave the house if you have a computer and interwebs connection.

Otherwise — with near record and record unemployment in every State and County in the entire Republic — Fire every last one of those malingerers and hire new people who actually want to work and are desperate for a fair wage paying job with benefits.

The newly unemployed can replace the previous unemployed and then they can go find another job elsewhere — which is exactly what they should be doing ANYWAY if they are so very unhappy at Wal-Mart.

Period.

End of story.

FlatFoot on November 18, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Oh, pleeezzzz! Walmart employees will be working. Early late bird or late early bird shoppers will be shopping, stampedes and Filene’s Basement-like fights over items will happen and it’ll just be another black Friday that I won’t go anywhere near. But seriously Jazz, none of your family members beat each other to a pulp on Thanksgiving Day–or at least want to?

stukinIL4now on November 18, 2012 at 7:00 PM

Cops work on holidays. So do firemen, hospital workers and even peons at sporting events (my wife was one of those).

cozmo on November 18, 2012 at 6:54 PM

Cops, firemen, hospital workers, EMTS are all vital public safety workers and much better compensated than retail workers. They also get more time off then said workers.

I’m conservative but I’m also aware of reality. Requiring your employees to work Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Years as policy (not as an option to earn better pay) for a non-essential retail sector job is horrible PR.

Think of this reality. For stores that opened at 3-4am on Black Friday workers had to be there at midnight to 1am. Opening at midnight means being there at 9pm and opening on 8pm ON THANKSGIVING OF ALL DAYS means employees have to be there at 3-4pm.

Usually just when families are starting to gather to sit down for turkey. I am happy that this Thanksgiving (just like last) my resturant’s owner is throwing an Employee Family Thanksgiving at a bar he owns. All of his employees (from all 3-4 of his businesses) are welcome and their families and friends as well. Additionally my family has invited me to come north and visit them for the holiday and my girlfriend is trying to persuade her family to invite me there.

SgtSVJones on November 18, 2012 at 7:06 PM

I think most of these stores are going to be disappointed this year. Who can spend much money with health insurance and taxes going up? That is, if you even have a job. I’m making many of our gifts or buying them from others who make homemade items. One thing hard economic times are good at–making you check your priorities. I’m looking forward to spending time with family.

txhsmom on November 18, 2012 at 7:06 PM

Ah, SparkPlug, you light up my life! The comic relief is very much appreciated.

onlineanalyst on November 18, 2012 at 7:13 PM

what’s that saying ‘he who fails to heed the errors of history are bound to repeat them’. anyone remember why malls and shopping plazas became popular, a lot of parking, brick and mortar stores are about to repeat the mistake, people have alternatives they can by online, who needs to fight the crowds at stores, the nasty workers at stores.

RonK on November 18, 2012 at 7:21 PM

Bruno Strozek and SgtSVJones

How about this…Don’t F’n Work there! It’s all about choice and if you don’t like how Wal-Mart compensates it’s employees…Don’t F’n Work There!

I hope these pieces of sh*t walk out and are promptly fired and arrested if they don’t leave Wal-Mart’s property. They can get on the Obumbler Unemployment train…wait, no they can’t!! LMAO! That’s one way of thinning the herd; starve the union rats to death!

If – Bruno Strozek and SgtSVJones got an education, then they wouldn’t have to work at Wal-Mart bagging and collecting carts. But the world needs Ditch Diggers too.

Tbone McGraw on November 18, 2012 at 7:23 PM

Ugh. I can’t stand this Black Friday stuff. I think it’s mostly women driving this, and they are sick to want to shop on Thanksgiving or Christmas night. Sick sick sick.

I worked on many holidays (zoo keeper) because animals have to eat and be cared for regardless of holidays, so I didn’t mind much. We would take turns so no one got stuck with it every year.

But no one needs to shop for video games or Christmas decorations on holidays that should be spent with family. It’s a sickness to want to shop for unneeded items at those times, and I am repulsed by these women who do it.

juliesa on November 18, 2012 at 7:33 PM

who needs to fight the crowds at stores, the nasty workers at stores.

RonK on November 18, 2012 at 7:21 PM

I do almost all of my Christmas chopping online. Most of my other shopping is done online too.

juliesa on November 18, 2012 at 7:36 PM

“,,,they’re not real jobs…”

A real job is one you show up for, and get paid for!

Now, that might be a little difficult to comprehend if you’re one of the usual Labor Goons who arranges “phantom jobs”, but in the real work world, the real people who get up each and every day to go to those jobs so that they can pay the rent and put food on the table, they understand the concept.

Another Drew on November 18, 2012 at 8:06 PM

I’m with Jazz, we don’t get anywhere near Black Friday.

We also don’t get anywhere near Walmart. It’s not a political thing but as a customer its always just a miserable experience. Super Target is maybe a bit more expensive.

Not all Walmarts are created equal though. I have been to the one in OK where a woman was arrested for cooking meth (not smoking it, cooking it up) in one of the aisles.

CorporatePiggy on November 18, 2012 at 8:06 PM

One thing I think that is different now than during my tour of duty as a retail employee is that the makeup of the work force has changed. The Krogers I worked at was a mega-store much like Walmart. It sold food, had a pharmacy, a bakery, a deli, a cheese shop, an arcade, a video store and sold cosmetics and perfume. The only thing that it didn’t have was clothes or tires.

What strikes me about Walmart today (and all the big retailers) is the people that work there. At Krogers in the late 80s the vast majority of employees were teenagers. Adults were department heads while kids did all the work. Sure, there were some retirees that worked as cashiers and such, but the store was really just a bunch of kids with a few adults to ride heard. It was a transitional job. No one saw it as a career except the managers and a few department heads. For me, it was a job that got me through high school and college, but that’s as far as I wanted to take it. Now days, the stores aren’t like that–at least around here. The majority of what I see is people that are 30+. This IS their job and is not some transitional thing to earn enough dough to get beer money.

This says a lot about the economic environment today. People are working in these places forever and it must be awful, because most of these jobs are still suitable for the same kids I used to work with. That’s the root of this Thanksgiving problem. The heads of families are working these jobs and Thanksgiving revolves around them. When a kid has to work on a holiday, it’s no big deal to the kid and is really not an imposition on the rest of the family, but when breadwinners have to work that throws a wrench into everyones plans. The way to solve this is to get the economy working again so the adults can move on to better things. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening soon.

ReaganWasRight on November 18, 2012 at 8:06 PM

Tbone McGraw on November 18, 2012 at 7:23 PM

And some people wonder why we are losing as conservatives? People like you.

Just so you know FYI:

I have 3 years of college and was working there to try and pay my rent-while continuing my education. I don’t work there any more and took a better paying job (delivery driver for tips). I don’t believe in taking welfare unless I am truly destitute-although I am elgible for food stamps, TANF, & MedicAid I take none of them.

I don’t have an issue with their compensation so much the robotic mindset of management that is pervasive there now.

I kindly suggest that you use common sense when reviewing the argument I make. Which is simply this: allow your employees a few guaranteed days off each year (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years) to spend time with family.

/VR

SgtSVJones on November 18, 2012 at 8:06 PM

The workers that abandon their jobs on Friday should be fired immediately. Sorry, no unemployment for you.

WM can replace them overnight it’s not like they require brain surgeons to scan items.

Mr. Arrogant on November 18, 2012 at 8:07 PM

I kindly suggest that you use common sense when reviewing the argument I make. Which is simply this: allow your employees a few guaranteed days off each year (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years) to spend time with family.

/VR

SgtSVJones on November 18, 2012 at 8:06 PM

He was a jerk in the way he presented his case, but he has the more conservative argument.

cozmo on November 18, 2012 at 8:11 PM

I’m conservative but I’m also aware of reality. Requiring your employees to work Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Years as policy (not as an option to earn better pay) for a non-essential retail sector job is horrible PR.

SgtSVJones on November 18, 2012 at 7:06 PM

Are vacation destinations non-essential? Most of those who work in non-essential vacation and meeting destinations are grateful for the work and, for the most part, consider that everyday in a friendly and fruitful work environment is a holiday.
What is it with our culture that government mandated days off from work are the only days in which we truly feel blessed with family, friends and colleagues?

bettycooper on November 18, 2012 at 8:13 PM

Fire every worker who walks out. There are thousands of people who would be happy to have those jobs. Unions have become a wart on the @ss of American workers. Time to freeze off the wart.

College Prof on November 18, 2012 at 8:15 PM

Fire every worker who walks out. There are thousands of people who would be happy to have those jobs. Unions have become a wart on the @ss of American workers. Time to freeze off the wart.

College Prof on November 18, 2012 at 8:15 PM

I made the same argument to a liberal nemesis of mine. I said there will be plenty of people waiting in line for their jobs, especially with 23 million out of work. She disagreed with me, saying that although there are a lot of people out of work, for some strange reason there are a lot of open job positions. Of course, there was no way in hell that the few working neurons in her head could ever put together any logical explanation as to why there are lots of open jobs even though so many people are not working.

ReaganWasRight on November 18, 2012 at 8:39 PM

He was a jerk in the way he presented his case, but he has the more conservative argument.

cozmo on November 18, 2012 at 8:11 PM

cozmo! Don’t you think you’re being a bit harsh? LMAO! Sometimes a blunt and or rude response is necessary and I deemed it necessary. I’m Sick and tired of playing nice when the other side slashes tires, destroys property and uses thug tactics to put “emphasis” on their point of view.

Besides, SgtSVJones thinks;

Which is simply this: allow your employees a few guaranteed days off each year (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years) to spend time with family.

That would be wonderful if they did…Don’t know? But, if they don’t and people know it and still work there…Tough SH*T!

And Old SgtSVJones knows –

I am elgible for food stamps, TANF, & MedicAid I take none of them.

How does one know they are “Eligible”?

Typical, just typical.

P.S. We don’t want you in the “Conservative Party” SgtSVJones none of us “knows” about our eligibility for public assistance, because it never crosses our minds! We’re just trying to get slugs like you and your pathetic family off of it!

Tbone McGraw on November 18, 2012 at 9:30 PM

txhsmom on November 18, 2012 at 7:06 PM

If stores are not disappointed this year, then they will be next year, for sure. People who are bumped down to 29.5 hours generally don’t have big budgets.

The big-box stores will be disappointed in me this year – I’m on a budget and I bought most of my gifts already. I am checking out of Christmas shopping after I pick up wrap from the least expensive place I can find it.

I love your idea about making gifts or buying from local sources. That is a wonderful personal touch that people remember. I’m not very artsy, so maybe I could bake or make fudge.

Philly on November 18, 2012 at 9:53 PM

Do you have any idea how many people are in a Walmart (ANY Walmart) on Black Friday? Thousands.

A few union wannabes makes no difference. Let’em protest. They will get hurt if they get in the way. Anyone will.

Moesart on November 18, 2012 at 10:40 PM

Tbone McGraw on November 18, 2012 at 7:23 PM

You must be a barrel of laughs. I one of many people who has taken on a retail job (second job, tough economy, long story). I have a terrific education, and I’ve supported Walmart for a long time, but as a conservative, I find it offensive to require employees to work on this very unique American holiday that also has some religious significance to many.

Would it be too much to allow families to be together on that day? It is only one of about three that most retailers honor.

Laura in Maryland on November 18, 2012 at 11:08 PM

Tbone McGraw on November 18, 2012 at 7:23 PM

I manage a small business with under 10 employees.

My staff have Thanksgiving Day and the day after off.

Paid.

Every year my staff exceed the productivity goals I set for them.

Treat people well and they respond in kind.

We have two choices in this world: be an a$$hole or don’t be an a$$hole.

I made my choice and you made yours.

Bruno Strozek on November 18, 2012 at 11:35 PM

Thanks to Laura & Bruno I appreciate the backup.

Now then as for how I “know”-every year I do my taxes with the aid of online software. Every year I fall BELOW the federally defined poverty line which means……drumroll please…….

I’m technically eligible for welfare.

Also my parents (in the phone calls we have every month or two) have pointed this fact out to me repeatedly. At that point I usually hang up the phone and don’t respond when they call back. After the first few times they got the message.

Laura said it better than I have period.

as a conservative, I find it offensive to require employees to work on this very unique American holiday that also has some religious significance to many.

Would it be too much to allow families to be together on that day? It is only one of about three that most retailers honor.

Laura in Maryland on November 18, 2012 at 11:08 PM

SgtSVJones on November 18, 2012 at 11:58 PM

I was the only one who did work on Christmas.

Rock on! And thank you.

But I have worked way too hard to give up one moment of one holiday. Most employers do not have the luxury of “deciding” to give staff impromptu holidays. But those that do, ahem, have less trouble asking for help around the holidays.

And H*ll No I don’t do double or triple time. I do time and a half if you’re in good standing.

Capitalist Hog on November 19, 2012 at 1:59 AM

We threw God out of our nation and now we complain because our secular society acts secular?

Don L on November 19, 2012 at 6:39 AM

My daughter works part time for Kmart. She’s 16, so she has school as well. She interviewed with the hours she was allowed to work and the nights she has other commitments. Kmart ignored all that and scheduled her for almost 30 hours a week until I refused to let her go to work on the committed nights. They threatened to fire her.

So, I told her I would “fire” her myself if they didn’t get her hours per week down below 18. THEN they found a way to be nicer, because my daughter is the one employee who always shows up when scheduled.

Now they scheduled her for 8 hours on Thanksgiving and another 10 on Black Friday. We’re having a family reunion on Black Friday because family members are travelling to us on Thanksgiving. So I okayed Thanksgiving, but told her Black Friday is absolutely out. And they’ve threatened to fire her.

They’re ALWAYS threatening to fire her. She’s been so threatened when: 1) she got sick; 2)she had a medical appointment; 3)she didn’t get enough people to sign up for their rewards card (she’s suppoed to sign up 60% and she’s usually around 44-50%). The other cashiers just sign up phony names and email addresses to keep their percentages up, but my girl refuses, God love her.

I can’t imagine why Kmart wants their employees to hate them – why any business would want that.

And of course, she gets lots of abuse from the customers, too. She typically comes home unhappy or angry. I’ve let it go this long for two reasons: 1) she is getting a very good lesson on the darker sides of people’s nature – an experience from which we’ve sheltered her for the most part, and; 2) this is a challenge and I think it’s good for her to figure out how to meet it in her own way.

That said, I’ll only let this go so far.

Cricket624 on November 19, 2012 at 10:06 AM

There will be no walk-out @ MY Wally. This is Texas-so unions don’t have power here+our Christmas bonuses will be in our first December paychecks. how much one gets is bases on the average hours one has worked during the prior four months. MY bonus should be in the $300+ range. FULL TIMERS are looking at S400+!!!
Normally, those of us w/ discount cards-you receive one after 3 months employment-get 105 off fresh produce, candy. and non-groceries. Last year Wally started giving said associates 10% off EVERYTHING-except tobacco or booze-during the Holiday season. They’re doing it again this year-and already that extra 10% off has started to add up for me. THIS year, Wally’s is doing something new. If you work between the hours of 0700 on thanksgiving to 0700 on Black Friday, you earn a voucher for an extra 10% off on Employee Appreciation Day. I will be working some of those hours…and for one day in early December…I’ll be getting 20% off the entire store.
Wal-Mart is a good gig-usually. LoL-and I feel lucky to be working there.

annoyinglittletwerp on November 19, 2012 at 10:08 AM

Cricket624 on November 19, 2012 at 10:06 AM
Spawn-age 18-is working both days-but we only have the 3 of us.
Wal-Mart WILL schedule ‘kids’ more hours when they know the kids are out of school-but the schedules go up 3 weeks in advance, and the managers will try to work around any conflicts if they can.

annoyinglittletwerp on November 19, 2012 at 10:11 AM

SgtSVJones on November 18, 2012 at 11:58 PM

Wal-Mart is closed on Christmas. Our paid ‘holiday’ is Christmas eve.

annoyinglittletwerp on November 19, 2012 at 10:12 AM

CorporatePiggy on November 18, 2012 at 8:06 PM

MY Wal-Mart is considered by many to be the best Wally in Lubbock.
No-I don’t think I deserve any credit for that. LoL

annoyinglittletwerp on November 19, 2012 at 10:15 AM

SgtSVJones on November 18, 2012 at 7:06 PM

Me and mine are hitting Cracker Barrel for turkey and all the fixin’s before I head to work+the store is going to be bringing in catered eats for it’s associates. Being that produce isn’t affected by Black Friday, I’ll probably get loaned-out to a different department. Last year I was a ‘gopher’ for an assistant manager. Our ‘Friday’ actually starts @ 2000 on Thursday. We’ll be ready….and come the follwing paycheck-I’ll be a LOT better off.

annoyinglittletwerp on November 19, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Some jobs I’ve had that required working on holidays: 411 operator for the phone company, nurse’s aide, answering service, 7-11 clerk, dispatcher for a plumbing company. Nobody dragged these people in off the street and forced them to work for Wal-Mart. They can quit any time.

My brother owned the plumbing company and everyone was on duty on the Friday after Thanksgiving, so the family had Thanksgiving on Saturday. The idea was to be with loved ones, and you can choose any day to do that.

DallasE on November 19, 2012 at 10:28 AM

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