Walmart’s holiday season PR troubles now look to extend beyond a consumer backlash against the big-box retailers who’ve decided to begin their Black Friday sales at 8 PM on Thanksgiving day.
Last week saw more than one case of employees walking off the job in groups, and now an advocacy group called Making Change at Walmart–which operates with the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union– claims that this week will bring a series of protests by Walmart employees around the country. Organizers announced their plans to journalists on a conference call, predicting “a thousand store protests” from LA to DC.
Of course, the employees’ case doesn’t center on Walmart’s decision to open on Thursday evening–though some do claim that management told them about the updated Thanksgiving schedule “on short notice” and gave them no choice as to whether they wanted to work that day or not. Their primary concerns include low wages, increasing health care premiums and “alleged retaliation from management” in order to punish employees for lodging complaints and attempting to organize.
A Walmart spokesman called the planned protests “another exaggerated publicity campaign” and claimed that the employees are just looking to generate headlines, so it doesn’t look like company executives have any interest in negotiation.
We have little doubt that Walmart will succeed in its ongoing attempts to prevent employees from unionizing. But how can the company counter such a large and well-organized movement? If these protests go down as promised, we have a feeling the Walmart team will end up making a whole lot of sterile and ultimately ineffective public statements that will do nothing to satisfy the protesters.
Will these events eventually do significant damage to the business?