One of the largest retailers may be facing a holidaze this season. Protesting their low wages, high health care premiums, and allegations of retaliation from managers, workers at Wal-Mart Stores are beginning to walk off the job. First, some workers at Wal-Mart’s distribution warehouses in California have decided to walk, followed by more from half a doze Seattle stores.
The workers, who are part of a union-backed employee coalition called Making Change at Wal-Mart, say this is the beginning of a wave of protests and strikes leading up to Black Friday. A thousand store protests are reportedly planned for Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Miami, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Washington, D.C..
Along with Target and Sears, Wal-Mart has plans to open retail stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Employees said they weren’t given a choice as to whether they would work on Thanksgiving and were told to do so with little warning. With 1.4 million U.S. workers, the Bentonville (Ark.)-based company is the U.S.’s largest private employer. For years, Wal-Mart has been targeted by unions and workers complaining about low wages, scant benefits, and retaliation against those who speak out.
Until now, the company has eliminated attempts by employees to organize. So it’s unusual that Making Change at Wal-Mart has been able to organize a number of strikes. They claim its the first in the company’s history. The first strike occurred in Los Angeles in October. That strike spread to 28 stores in 12 states, according to organizers.
Yet the strikes—timed to coincide with the holiday shopping rush—are clearly intended to put pressure on the company during the busiest time of the year, when Wal-Mart most needs its employees. Holiday cheer is a tough sell if your workers are picketing in the parking lot.