Walmart and Target have been making news this year for stealing Thanksgiving from their employees, rolling back the opening bell on Black Friday to 9pm Thursday for the first time and making their employees work Thanksgiving night. Target employees mounted a high-profile petition to save Thanksgiving, but now Walmart employees are planning 1,000 online and in-person protests at store locations on Friday.
Neither Target or Walmart workers are unionized despite efforts to mobilize dating back a few years. But BusinessWeek and CNBC report that the United Food & Commercial Workers are working behind the scenes to organize Walmart employees for Black Friday protests, even though the employees aren’t union members.
OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart, two Walmart employee groups that work closely with the union, are organizing up to 1,000 protests over Walmart stealing Thanksgiving. “You are going to see unprecedented activity from now and going into Black Friday,” Dan Schlademan of Making Change at Walmart tells CNBC.
Apparently this isn’t the first time the United Food & Commercial Workers has helped lead the charge on Walmart protests—CNBC notes that last year they spent $50,000 on hotel rooms sending reps to events near Walmart’s headquarters. But Walmart takes Black Friday seriously, apparently—the company filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that the union was meddling in its business by trying to influence employees. Labor leaders counter that Walmart’s complaint is a warning shot meant to intimidate workers from participating in protests.
Of course both CNBC and Businessweek are quick to point out that the protests probably won’t change anything. “Similar protests in recent weeks have had little perceptible impact on the world’s largest retailer. The Black Friday protests are unlikely to be any different,” notes Businessweek, and quotes a law school professor who says “That’s one of the big challenges for the labor movement. We’ll sign online petitions, but we won’t vote with our wallets.”
Of course, the same could be said about Occupy Wall Street. Did it change anything specific in terms of regulation and corporate accountability? No. But it definitely elevated our consciousness about economic justice, and who’s to say in the long term it won’t have an impact?
So I say get out there, Walmart employees, and occupy Black Friday. There’s no guarantee it’ll change anything, but it’s guaranteed that nothing will change if you don’t.