Black Friday and Wal Mart Strike?

This can’t be good for Black Friday shoppers who are gearing up for all those awesome online sales or who are mustering their strength and courage to show up at the physical stores for those great deals. Turns out, organizers say Black Friday strikes are being planned at about 1,000 Wal-Mart stores. This is huge because it’s the biggest holiday shopping day of the year – and the walk out is being threatened by workers who call the biggest retailer in the nation home.

Ongoing Strike

Did you know a Wal Mart strike has been ongoing since October in twelve different cities? If you didn’t, it’s not surprising. It totals only about 100 workers, which is likely not doing anything to catch the attention of Wal Mart and the only purpose it’s likely serving is making those strikers’ finances incredibly difficult since they’re not bringing in a paycheck. Still, though, if this sentiment spreads, and it begins to pick up major momentum, it could be a headache not only for shoppers, but the retailer, its credit card partners and even the credit card companies that don’t share a co-brand with Wal Mart.

So why are employees so unhappy? First, it could have something to do with Wal Mart’s announcement that the Health Care Act will force it to cut jobs. Other workers say they’re being punished via a cut in their hours for asking for transfers or who have gone out for extended periods due to medical issues. One worker is planning on the Wal Mart walkout because he says it’s time for the company to stop punishing its employees for standing up for their rights. William Fletcher, who works at a Wal-Mart in Duarte, CA and who also participated in the October strikes, says the retail giant cut his hours after he asked to move to another division because of a knee injury.

I kept asking myself, when is the retaliation for speaking our mind and acting on our rights going to stop?

Three Groups

There are at least three groups, two of which are union backed. OUR Walmart and Making Change at Wal-Mart, along with a watchdog organization, Corporate Action Network, are encouraging Wal Mart to stop the retaliation against its employees who are simply “speaking out for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care”.

Currently, it’s expected to be about 1,000 different protests around the country. The interesting aspect is there are plans to protest the website, too. It’s difficult to understand how protesters might accomplish that, but if this continues to grow, it could prove very difficult for shoppers who take advantage of some of the lowest prices of the year.

70% Online Shoppers

Millions shop online every year to avoid the long lines and overcrowded stores. In fact, a new poll from McAfee says 70% of Americans will be doing at least some online shopping this holiday season, which means they’ll have their debit and credit cards handy. Every year, more Americans discover the convenience and safety of holiday shopping online. It’s convenient, safe and frankly, head-ache free. That said, McAfee also says the number of scams are on the increase. This, coupled with any efforts of strikers to affect the Wal Mart site could be problematic for the retail giant and its consumers.

As it stands, though, it appears the company isn’t overly concerned. On Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the number of workers who are behind the concerns is “very small and don’t represent the views of the vast majority” of its 1.3 million strong workforce. Still, some labor experts are warning that laid back attitude could backfire on the company and even a small number of workers who walk out could have a significant impact on the company. Ken Margolies, who is a senior associate at the Worker Institute at Cornell University, said,

Even if there aren’t that many people, it could have an effect, because their campaign in front of stores could discourage shoppers.

What’s even more concerning is the possibility that the strike could tumble over into the various supply centers located around the country. Distribution could be impacted, from both an onsite delivery and shipping to millions of homes where online shoppers do their business.

The determination of those planning the strike next week is beginning to show. Currently, there’s a massive social media buzz being defined. They’re setting up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and YouTube pages. Along with that are more than a few online platforms being used to raise funds as a way to sponsor the striking employees. It’s believed more than $20,000 has been raised.

Wal-Mart workers have been battling with management over pay, benefits and their ability to speak up for years, experts say. This could be a big factor in the current efforts and why the company might want to pay attention. A writer who published a tell all book more than a decade ago, formed a union for the store’s butchers. He did so when Wal Mart opted to eliminate all of its butchers in lieu of bringing in already-cut and packaged meats.

For now, it doesn’t appear the site will go black as a result of the striker’s efforts, but that’s the thing about these kinds of quagmires: you assume nothing. Anything is possible when a group of employees come together and who are frustrated with the lack of fair treatment by their employers. Will they ultimately succeed? That remains to be seen, but there is a lot at stake for Wal Mart. Any successful efforts to keep shoppers from buying its wares could significantly affect the company’s bottom line.

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