MILWAUKEE — Big box chain Wal-Mart is set to make headlines on Black Friday — but it’s not about the sales. Employees nationwide are planning a walkout to fight against what workers call employer retaliation.
In the months prior to Black Friday — one of the biggest shopping days of the year, thousands of Wal-Mart employees have been protesting against claims of employer retaliation due to employees speaking out for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care.
Wal-Mart denies any retaliation.
“If any associates have those concerns, we want to hear about them, and we’ll take action if there’s merit to it,” Wal-Mart VP of Communications David Tovar said.
Wal-Mart says it has a strict anti-retaliation policy. However, some who are protesting say oftentimes, if one complains, the big box store will shuffle around schedules, cut hours or move the employee to another department.
Steven French is one Milwaukee-area Wal-Mart employee who plans to walk out or not go to work at all on Friday. Instead, he’ll be on the picket line.
“With the attention that Black Friday itself gets, it will be a good chance for our voices to be heard. It might be congested, and then a lot of disappointed shoppers,” French said.
Some shoppers are fearing the worst.
“If they walk off the job, I guess people will have to take their money somewhere else,” one worker said.
Others, however, are calling the protesters’ bluff.
“I think it’s all talk. They’ll be here. If I decide to come on Black Friday, they’ll be right there to wait on me,” another customer said.
Wal-Mart workers could walk off the job as soon as Thanksgiving night if the store is open.
Wal-Mart has said only a portion of its employees plan on protesting, and the holiday shopping season will be business as usual.