Wal-Mart Walkout Gaining Momentum After Hostess Closing, Before Black Friday

   on November 17 2012 5:22 PM
Wal-Mart Walkout-12.11.16
Striking Wal-Mart employees are shown in this file photo gathering during a rally to protest poor wages and unsafe working conditions outside one of the retailer's store in Pico Rivera, Calif. Reuters

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) employees who plan to walk out on the company during its busiest time of year appear committed to their plan as Black Friday -- aka the day after Thanksgiving -- approaches.

The workers are accusing the world’s largest retailer of retaliating against those who have spoken out about better pay, fair schedules, and safer working conditions.

The movement began at a Los Angeles store and has since spread to 12 other cities, making it a near-certainty it will encompass more workers than the 100 who demonstrated during an October protest, according to CNNMoney. The story has gained momentum in the national media after news broke Friday that Hostess Brands Inc. will halt production of Twinkies and other well-known snacks, at least in part because of a strike by union members employed by that company.

Although labor organizers launched a social-media blitz to sway public opinion, Wal-Mart management has said the unhappy workers would not be a disturbance because they represent a small proportion of the retail chain’s 1.4 million workers in the U.S. The Los Angeles Times reported some workers have already started demonstrating in front of stores, which could be cause for concern by the company.

“Even if there aren't that many people, it could have an effect, because their campaign in front of stores could discourage shoppers,” Ken Margolies, senior associate at the Worker Institute at Cornell University's ILR School, told CNN.

Workers in Dallas, Seattle, and San Leandro, Calif., have walked off the job with Black Friday under a week away, the L.A. Times reported. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart has asked the National Labor Relations Board to prevent the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union from protesting, citing an allegedly illegal attempt to hurt the retailer’s business.

“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 representative David Tovar told Reuters.

The planned walkout is hardly the first time Wal-Mart has come under fire by labor groups. The chain has been accused of scheduling employees for less than 40 hours a week despite claiming otherwise, according to USA Today. Management has also been accused of ignoring employees’ 90-day probationary periods and withholding pay raises to which it had previously agreed.

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