Walmart Black Friday Strike
Protests at the retail giant could mean steps toward changing its unfair ways
By Chris ScullinPosted Nov 28, 2012
Wal-mart Stores, Inc., the world’s largest retailer, has long been known for offering extremely low prices on almost anything the American consumer could ever need. There are quite a few methods it uses to accomplish this.
First, it buys in enormously high volume. Walmart has more than 4,000 stores nationwide, including 610 Sam’s Club warehouses. The company buys so many units of a single product that the manufacturer is forced to offer low costs. Also, since the company has so many customers, manufacturers are eager to get their products on Walmart’s shelves. Therefore, Walmart is most often telling the manufacturer what it will pay for products, not the other way around.
Walmart also pressures many of its manufacturers to outsource jobs, with China and Mexico being some of its favorite places to move them. There have also been claims that human rights are not defended at these factories, with working conditions that are deemed unsafe and hours that are unreasonable.
Finally, Walmart saves money by exploiting its in-store workers. The company has a history of discrimination against women, offering full-time workers low wages, cutting benefits, child labor in the U.S. and firing employees who call in sick.
In 1999, Stephanie Odle was fired from Walmart after she complained of gender discrimination, claiming that a male colleague with the exact same job title and duties and much less experience was paid $23,000 more than she was each year.
Mike Michell, a Walmart security guard, was hit by a car as he chased down a woman in the parking lot who was using stolen checks. The person that hit him was the woman’s accomplice. He was injured pretty badly and needed knee surgery. But rather than give him time off to recover, Walmart fired him.
Though the company, whose workers are not unionized, has been doing this for years, workers have finally organized a strike. Beginning at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, when the store opened for Black Friday shopping, workers nationwide had planned to protest in front of the stores rather than work their shifts.
The protest was organized by United Food and Commercial Workers Union and a group called OUR Walmart. The group claimed that the strikes were successful, citing 1,000 protests and participation in 100 cities in 46 states. It says there are still hundreds on strike.
Walmart disputed these claims, saying that less than 50 associates participated in the protests, and that less workers missed their Black Friday shifts this year than last year. It also boasted record high sales numbers, claiming to have sold 1.3 million TVs and a quarter of a million bicycles.
No matter which party is telling the truth, this is a step in the right direction. Even though the company was not hurt financially by the strike, and though I doubt there were many people who saw the protests and decided to shop somewhere else on Black Friday (since on this of all days people are shopping for deals), at least it spreads the word that this company needs to change its ways. Its unfair practices are nothing new, and have been covered by news sources regularly. The extremely greedy company will most likely not address any of the problems with its employment practices until it is in its best financial interest to do so.
So if people stop shopping at Walmart, and its profits fall by even a fraction of a percent, I can almost guarantee action will be taken shortly thereafter.