The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) staged picketing at Walmart stores throughout the country Nov. 23 targeting labor practices of the nation’s largest retailer on one of the biggest shopping days of the year following a Thanksgiving Day worker walkout.
The protesters, spearheaded by UFCW-backed OUR Wal-Mart and Making Change at Walmart, marched on sometimes noisy picket lines calling on the retailer to end what they call retaliation against employees who speak out for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care.
The firm refers to its corporate entity as Wal-Mart. Individual stores are referred to as Walmart.
The planned walkouts build on an October protest that started at a Walmart in Los Angeles and spread to stores in 12 other cities. More than 100 workers joined the October actions.
Wal-Mart has said the protesters make up just a handful of its 1.4-million-strong workforce.
Even so, the retailer said the actions have disrupted business, and that the workers' ongoing actions violate the National Labor Relations Act, which prohibits picketing for any period over 30 days without filing a petition to form a union.
“Walmart workers have been speaking out about the company’s manipulation of hours and benefits, efforts to try to keep people from working full-time and their discrimination against women and people of color,” said a statement released by Making Change at Walmart.
“Rather than listening to the concerns facing 1.4 million Walmart workers, Walmart has attempted to silence them. Some workers have also been speaking out about the early start of Black Friday sales – on Thanksgiving Day –which will keep many retail workers from being able to spend the holiday with their families.”
This year the chainstore urged shoppers into the stores with deals offered only between 10 and 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
“This Thanksgiving, while millions of families plan to spend quality time with their loved ones, many Walmart workers have been told we will be stocking shelves and preparing for doors to open at 8pm on Thanksgiving night,” said Mary Pat Tifft, co-founder of OUR Walmart.
“This early opening is one more example of Walmart’s disconnect with the workers who keep its stores running and disregard for all of our families.”
Tifft has been a Walmart associate for 24 years and won’t have to work on Thanksgiving, but said she would have been “devastated” if she had to work instead of spending time with her son, who will be home from Afghanistan.
“As the largest employer in the country, Walmart could be setting a standard for businesses to value families, but instead, this is one more Walmart policy that hurts the families of workers at its stores.”
Though managers have been instructed to act professionally and not disrupt or interfere with any protests or sit-ins, David Tovar, the Wal-Mart spokesperson said on the CBS Evening News. “There could be consequences.”
Tovar’s statements have done nothing to deter the picket lines marching in front of stores as the company revs up for the one day businesses look to recoup loss revenue and take their budget from a negative red balance to a positive black one.
In addition to workers’ protests, the nation's largest retailer was confronted with complaints from concerned pet owners who want the retailer to pull a controversial product from their shelves.
Dog and cat owners are targeting chicken jerky dog treats made in China. Since 2007, the Food and Drug Administration has received 2,200 complaints from pet owners who claim that their animals suffered illness or death after eating the treats. Owners have attributed the deaths of at least 360 dogs and one cat, usually from kidney failures, to Chinese chicken jerky.
The FDA said it is investigating the complaints and has issued three warnings to Walmart customers about the product. But the firm has not issued a recall, saying it has not found a conclusive link between the treats and animal illness.
A Wal-Mart representative told ABC News the company is continuing to closely monitor the issue "and remains engaged with the FDA regarding their investigation." Noting that the FDA has not identified the cause of the illnesses or any links with specific brands, the company said, "If evidence is found linking a contaminant to our products, we will take appropriate action."