The Labor & Employment Blog is a forum for practitioners and Bloomberg BNA editors to share ideas, raise issues, and network with colleagues.
Friday, October 12, 2012
by Michael Rose
Wal-Mart and labor unions have long been at odds. The world's
largest retail chain aggressively seeks to combat union organizing
at its U.S. stores, and has inspired various labor-sponsored
campaigns to draw attention to the company's employment, logistics, and sourcing practices.
But not until now have workers at Wal-Mart stores actually
walked off the job in large numbers. This week, with the help of a group sponsored
by the United Food and Commercial Workers, workers in four states
staged a walkout. UFCW has sought to bring attention to Wal-Mart's
employment practices for years, and supports Organization United
for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), an association of current
Wal-Mart employees. The group is not actively seeking to organize
workers at Wal-Mart stores, but helped organize what it called a strike.
A company spokesman told BNA that the number of workers that
walked off the job was small, and that store operations were not
affected. According to OUR Walmart, workers stopped work at
locations in the Dallas, Miami, suburban Washington, D.C., Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles areas. The workers have said
they're looking for more consistent hours, better pay, and "simple
Although the walkouts only lasted two days, OUR Walmart in a
conference call with reporters on Wednesday said it planned further
actions on the day after Thanksgiving, typically the busiest
shopping day of the year, if the company did not meet its
Striking workers and national OUR Walmart leaders said the group has
committed to engaging in a wide range of nonviolent activities on
Black Friday, including rallies, flash mobs, direct action, and
other efforts to inform customers about what they call the illegal
actions that Wal-Mart has been taking against its workers. The
group also garnered support from various other organizations,
including the National Organization for Women and the National
But a Wal-Mart spokesman countered that "the union is using our
associates to further its own political and financial agenda," and
noted that when the striking employees were offered individual
meetings with human resources staff, they largely declined.
It's probably safe to say that there hasn't been a walkout on
this scale before at Wal-Mart, and it attracted attention in the
mainstream press. Come Nov. 23, shoppers could be faced with a
different kind of scene than they're used to.
In other labor news this week:
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