Thousands of protesters marched in Chinatown, Los Angeles, on June 30, 2012, to protest wages and working conditions at Wal-Mart (Joe Klamar/AFP/GettyImages)

Strikes? At Wal-Mart?

For years the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company has successfully resisted efforts to organize its workers. But in recent weeks, protests have broken out at some of its stores, including San Leandro and Richmond. Now protesters say they are making their biggest push ever on the biggest shopping day of the year.

On Black Friday — when consumers traditionally take advantage of a holiday after Thanksgiving — some Wal-Mart workers plan to walk off the job. Black Friday is a big deal for Wal-Mart, which plans to start sales pegged to it on 8 p.m. Thursday. As a measure of how seriously the company is taking the threat of protests, it filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board calling the pickets illegal.

From the New York Times:

The National Labor Relations Board, which often takes weeks or months to investigate complaints, said on Monday that it would decide within days whether there is merit to Wal-Mart’s complaint, filed last Thursday, to seek an injunction to stop anti-Wal-Mart protests scheduled for this week…

Wal-Mart contends that the protests violate a law that prohibits picketing for more than 30 days when a union is seeking recognition. Wal-Mart asserts that the group’s rolling protests have gone on for more than 30 days and are actually sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which helped found OUR Walmart last year. The company maintains that the food and commercial workers union is seeking union recognition from Wal-Mart…

Disagreeing with the company, OUR Walmart said this week’s demonstrations were not demanding union recognition, although some of the group’s members acknowledge that is their long-term goal.

Change Walmart, which is also helping organize the strike, is getting the word out in some creative ways, such as a storyline made of gifs (snippets of animation).

Some workers complain of increased costs for health insurance. Others say that the company retaliates against them if they speak out to criticize it. That was a theme of the strike that hit a Wal-Mart store reopening Nov. 2 after a closure in Richmond.

Richmond Confidential had the story:

Shoppers were greeted by placard-wielding protesters, carrying signs reading “Stand Up, Live Better, Stop Retaliation” and “Stop Trying to Silence Us.”

The protesters were a combination of Walmart associates and members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Organization United for Respect at Walmart.

Misty Tanner, a longtime Walmart employee, transferred to the store four months ago to work on the remodel. She said the project manager has threatened and intimidated employees.

And on Nov. 14, San Leandro workers began by setting up an impromptu memorial to a deceased colleague inside the store, then held a rally outside before returning to work, according to IndyBay.

These actions followed similar protests in other parts of the country, IndyBay reports:

…in September, 38 warehouse workers who move Walmart goods went on strike in Elwood, Illinois for three weeks. Elwood is the site of Walmart’s largest North American distribution center.

This strike, by a small but strategic group of workers, cost the company millions of dollars. The strikers won immediate improvements on some important safety issues. All the striking workers were reinstated, with full backpay for the period of the strike. The Illinois workers were inspired by a similar 15-day strike of Walmart supply chain workers in Southern California. In addition to striking, these workers conducted a six-day, 50-mile “Wallmarch” to City Hall in Los Angeles.

Like the Illinois workers, they also won safer working conditions, and all strikers returned to work after the strike.

We have a call out to Wal-Mart about the Bay Area actions and will let you know what we hear back.

Meanwhile, California Watch reports another setback for the retail chain in California: The Fresno-based 5th District Court of Appeal ruled against Wal-Mart’s strategy of using petition drives to avoid an environmental review of new stores in California.

  • cg9

    If you find out if there’s to be an action in the Bay Area this Friday, please let us know!

    • http://blogs.kqed.org/stateofhealth Lisa Aliferis, KQED

      There are events planned Thursday night in Richmond and San Leandro. You can check for details or for other events here: http://www.corporateactionnetwork.org/campaigns/black-friday/events

      • cg9

        Thanks! We’ll try to make it to the San Leandro action. I think Walmart’s owners are the poster children of the one percent with their crazy wealth and their domestic, race-to-the-bottom policies!

      • cg9

        Found another one in San Jose, at 777 Story Road this Friday at noon.

  • c,mason

    UNION AND PROUD!MARCH ON!!

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