WalMart and worker organizers disagreed on the number of protestors Photo courtesy of forrespectorg
Wal-Mart and worker organizers disagreed on the number of protestors. (Photo courtesy of forrespect.org)

Wal-Mart Downplays Protest Efforts

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Shoppers came out in stronger force than protesters as the holiday sales season kicked off for Wal-Mart Stores [2], the retailer here said.

The company reported its “best ever” Black Friday sales event, serving 22 million customers as sales began Thanksgiving night.

And despite warnings that employees might walk off the job as part of union-backed protests, Wal-Mart said there were just 26 protests at its stores Thursday, “and many of them did not include any Wal-Mart associates,” Bill Simon, Wal-Mart’s U.S. president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We estimate that less than 50 associates participated in the protest nationwide. In fact, this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year.”

OURWalmart, a group of Wal-Mart employees backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, said it had planned as many as 1,000 protest events leading up to and including Black Friday. The threat prompted Wal-Mart to seek injunctive action through the National Labor Relations Board preventing further events, arguing that similar protests over the previous six months amounted to picketing in excess of what federal law permits without an accompanying union vote.

More news: Thanksgiving, Web Boost Weekend Sales [3]

The complaint triggered priority status for the NLRB. The NLRB office in Little Rock, Ark., completed its investigation Wednesday and forwarded its report to attorneys at the agency’s Division of Advice for legal analysis “given the complexity of the situation,” an NLRB spokeswoman told SN Monday. “The Division of Advice will then make a recommendation to the Acting General Counsel, who will decide how to proceed — not sure when that will be,” Nancy Cleeland, the spokeswoman said.

OURWalmart said its demonstrators were demanding “respect” from Wal-Mart, calling for more full-time jobs, better health care and the freedom from retaliation for workers who speak out for job improvements.

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