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The Stirrings of Protest
One day in early October when I was out for one of my morning walks, I noticed some unusual activity going on at my neighborhood Walmart. Several people in matching green t-shirts were preparing signs for what was obviously going to be some sort of demonstration.
An hour or so later when I returned to Walmart to pick up some groceries, I was taken aback by what I found there. A picket line of perhaps 30 or so green t-shirted people marched orderly in front of the store. In the center of their path blared a very loud and exuberant mariachi band. More "strikers" wandered the parking lot with more professional types watching on. I could tell that the business attired latter group were the organizers of the event. This was obviously union organized.
After I got home that day I began exploring the website referred to by literature that was being distributed at the protest event. The site confirmed the union connections as did several other sites that a Google search led me to.
In the succeeding weeks I began to read and hear more about the Walmart attack. It was a nationwide tour organized by union activists. I had already been annoyed to learn that possibly none of the protesters worked at my neighborhood store and the ones I spoke with said that they either knew someone that worked at Walmart, worked at a Walmart store elsewhere, or were hired to walk the picket line. To me this was all a union instigated sham that apparently didn't interest many employees at my neighborhood store.
A Black Friday Threat
With the coming of Black Friday, threats of walk-outs and sale day disruptions have been talked about nationwide. By the time you are reading this, the whole situation will be seen in better perspective. For now I can report on my observations of my local store in Pico Rivera, California.
At about 2 PM my wife and I walked over to the store--Walmart is in a shopping center across the street from where I live. Business was brisk at Walmart and we were surprised at the number of smaller stores that were also open. The Walmart customers were busily shopping and the employees appeared to be contentedly at work preparing for the Black Friday sales that would commence at 8 PM and then run periodically through the actual Friday. No sign of any problems.
Later at about 7:30 I returned to the store by myself to see the chaos that I expected to erupt at 8 PM and see how many employees would walk out to join the picket lines in front of the store. Except there was no picket line and there were no demonstrators. A local TV news truck was on site in case anything exciting happened, but they looked pretty bored.
As 8 PM approached I wandered the store. Customers patiently were queuing up for the sales items they were interested in. Perhaps as many as 400 or more store employees stood waiting to unwrap the pallets for Phase 1 of the sale. All of the employees seemed happy and enthusiastic. Several asked me or others if we needed any help.
When 8 PM hit, the employees opened the first pallets and calmly guided customers to pick up the items they were waiting for. No screaming and shouting or any anger that I could see and no pushing or stampedes. It was one of the most professional and well-organized events I have ever witnessed.
A Change of Perception
I was all ready to write a post about stupid Walmart employees, but I was impressed by my first Black Friday experience. These sales are something I have always avoided and will probably continue to avoid. However, these employees were top notch with no signs of disgruntlement.
As I strolled about the store before the first phase began, I conversed with several employees. They were all very friendly and seemed happy to be there. I asked each of them if they thought anyone would be walking out on the job. They all indicated that they did not think so and that there was apparently not much interest in doing so at this store. I can say nothing bad about the employees I encountered on this visit to Walmart.
My observations may be hasty since Friday hasn't even arrived as I write this. Things may have entirely changed at the store since I left and the sales will be going on for several more hours. A lot could still happen or may have already happen as you are reading this. And this is only one store that may not exemplify other stores across the nation. It all remains to be seen at this writing.
There are many videos about Walmart protests that can be found on the internet and a Google search will reveal a great deal of information about the issues between Walmart and labor and the unions. The Care2 site has a petition to "Avoid Walmart when workers walk out on Black Friday". It's been signed by a whopping 17 people. Not 17,000 or 1700, but 17 people. Pretty sorry participation there.
The sign-up for the Worker's Manifesto at the OUR Walmart site (not affiliated with Walmart) managed to fare a bit better passing the 1700 mark. Not a big deal if you consider the two million workers employed by Walmart. And most likely many of these signers are not employees of Walmart at all, but most likely just rabble-rousers who would sign anything to disrupt society.
Stay Tuned for More
I will be having a lot more to say about things like Walmart, unions, and job market in future posts. Black Friday seemed the most appropriate thing to focus on today. There are many problems in the workplace, but sometimes those problems are exploited and even generated by forces outside the workplace. There are also problems concerning wage disparity and workers' rights, but what are the arguments in these cases? Stay tuned. This won't be going away soon so I'm sure I'll be bringing it up again.
Did you go or are you going to go to Walmart for the Black Friday sales? If so, what was your experience at Walmart? Do you think there are pervasive problems among Walmart employees concerning their jobs or do you think this is a ruse stirred up by union organizers? Would it be a good thing for unhappy Walmart employees to walk out at an important time like Black Friday? Does Walmart deserve a whipping?