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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