SEATTLE (CBS SEATTLE) — Low-wage Walmart workers across the country are threatening to disrupt the store’s operations on Black Friday this year.
Employees at 28 Walmarts in 12 different cities –including Seattle — walked out of work Tuesday, but things may get a whole lot worse for the biggest retailer in the U.S. come Black Friday, according to the Huffington Post.
United Food and Commercial Workers’ Making Change At Walmart, the group behind the protesters alleging unfair labor practices by Walmart, has warned that the campaign will come to a head on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that’s regarded as one of the biggest shopping days of the year, according to a conference call organized by the group Wednesday.
“We’ll make it known that Walmart’s deadline is Black Friday,” said Colby Harris, 22, a Walmart worker from Dallas, Texas, and a member of OUR Walmart, a UFCW-backed worker organization closely affiliated with Making Change at Walmart.
The Black Friday protests could include any “non-violent action, from flash mobs to strikes to public awareness,” Harris added.
David Tovar, Walmart VP of communications, countered the protesters’ claims in an interview with The Huffington Post. “These strikes are an attempt by the unions to further their own political and financial agendas,” he said, noting that the majority of Walmart’s 1.4 million workers are pleased with their jobs. Tovar wouldn’t comment on the possibility of Black Friday strikes.
“More than half of Walmart’s one million hourly store associates have an hourly wage at least $10.00 or higher,” he said. “In fact, in many metropolitan areas in which we operate, our entry level start rates regularly exceed that of new hires for comparable positions under the UFCW contracts.”
If the protesters go through with the Black Friday strike, the move would be unprecedented and could cause a major headache for the retailer on a day when consumers traditionally wait in long lines outside stores for the best deals.
But the activists have proven they’re not afraid to break barriers. Before last Friday, no retail Walmart workers had ever gone on strike, United Food and Commercial Workers’ Making Change At Walmart told The Huffington Post.
More recently, Walmart warehouse workers in Southern California marched 50 miles over six days to protest working conditions.
If Walmart were to close on Black Friday, it may help the retailer avoid some dangerous situations. The discounts traditionally offered on the day have a history of inciting violence among shoppers. One woman was arrested last year after pepper-spraying 20 other customers waiting to purchase discounted Xbox video game consoles in order to “get an advantage.”