A union representing a group of Walmart employees said it is planning a strike on Black Friday, the retailer’s biggest shopping day of the year.
The employees, who are apart of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), said they will stage 1,000 unique protests around the country on Nov. 23. A UFCW official said in a reporter’s conference call that the events would include walkouts and flash mobs at several Walmart locations. Strikers also plan to “educate” shoppers on the workers’ hardships.
"We're seeing unprecedented support. In my 20 years of organizing I've never seen this kind of activity," said Dan Schlademan, director of the UFCW's Making Change at Walmart campaign. "It's going to be a very creative day."
Protests are planned in several locations including Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C., according to the group.
Workers have a slew of complaints, but the most common were low wages and unfair hours.
Colby Harris, who has worked at a Walmart in Lancaster, Texas, for three years and earns $8.90 an hour, said during the conference call that he and his co-workers often have to borrow money from one another to make ends meet.
“I’m on my lunch break right now, and I have two dollars in my pocket. I’m deciding whether to use it to buy lunch or to hold on to it for next week,” he said.
Sara Gilbert, a manager who was striking in Seattle, was also involved in the conference call.
“I work full-time for one of the richest companies in the world, and my kids get state health insurance and are on food stamps,” she said.
Walmart is the largest private employer in the U.S., with about 1.4 million workers across the county.
The major retailer is among many, including Target and Sears, that plan to open their doors for Black Friday starting around 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Employees having to work those shifts have no choice, they said.
Charlene Fletcher, a Walmart worker in Duarte, Calif., is scheduled to start work at 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. She said that workers who complain about their scheduling and other problems either have their hours cut or are fired.
“They don’t care about family,” she said.
Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg told Businessweek in an email that the strike is “just another exaggerated publicity campaign aimed at generating headlines to mislead the retailer’s customers and employees.”
“The fact is, these ongoing tactics being orchestrated by the UFCW are unlawful and we will act to protect our associates and customers from this ongoing illegal conduct,” he wrote.
Walmart strikes started as early as October, according to the Huffington Post. The first occurred when about 160 workers walked off the job at 28 stores around the country; several smaller demonstrations followed.
However, OUR Walmart, a UFCW affiliated group insists the upcoming strike will be larger and more disruptive. The group has advertized the protest through social media, using the hash tag #walmartstrikers on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. One platform established a sponsorship where donations can be given to support strikers and their families.
Workers insist that their goal is not to “shame” Walmart but rather to improve their work conditions.
“Walmart needs to know that if we didn’t want to work with them, we would have quit,” Harris said.