Walmart files Labor Relations Board complaint in attempt to stop Black Friday protests (UPDATE)

Workers line up carts in anticipation for the Black Friday crowds.

With the continuing creep of Black Friday sales, stores are opening earlier and earlier. One sales associate at the Best Buy in South Philadelphia said that customers begin lining up at midnight on Thanksgiving. Last year, he said, the line stretched from the store around the parking lot and to the Philadelphia Parking Authority building blocks away. At the Walmart on Columbus Boulevard, the parking lot was filled to capacity Monday afternoon, with a wait three cars deep for handicapped spots.

Many retail employees are now finding themselves working Thanksgiving night. Walmart is opening at 8 p.m. Thursday and frustrated workers are taking to the picket lines in eight states across the country to raise awareness about working conditions at the nation’s largest retailer on its busiest shopping day.

“We’re protesting the fact that employees are working at minimum wage and that few are with benefits, if any at all,”  said Bill Epstein, director of communications for United Food and
Commercial Workers Local 1776, which does not represent Walmart employees, none of which are unionized in the U.S. “We’re protesting the last-minute scheduling that makes it difficult for families to plan child care, yet they’re expected to be at work day after day. The problem here is that these policies are leading our country in a
race to the bottom.”

Of 1,000 planned Black Friday actions against Walmart, three demonstrations will be staged in Philadelphia beginning at 8 a.m. at Walmart’s Columbus Boulevard store in South Philadelphia, its Aramingo Avenue location in Port Richmond and its Adams Avenue outlet in Northeast Philadelphia. “We will join to demonstrate solidarity with and support the courageous Walmart workers who have walked out on strike in eight states,” Epstein said. “The labor movement supports workers and families wherever they are. Walmart is the largest retailer in the country, which is why it’s particularly important that they set an example.”

He said that though UFCW is helping to organize the demonstration, it is neither a strike nor a picket and it is not exclusively union-backed. The protest will also include community activist groups Jobs with Justice, the Jewish Labor Committee and the NAACP, as well as members of the UFCW-backed Making Change at Walmart and Walmart employee coalition OUR Walmart. “We’re not trying to stop anyone from going into the store at all,” Epstein said. “We’re just going to be asking customers to sign a petition.”

But Walmart clearly disagrees. The company on Friday filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a court injunction stopping the Black Friday actions. The complaint alleges that, through OUR Walmart, which they refer to as a union subsidiary, the UFCW has been picketing, intimidating Walmart customers and employees with the intent of forcing Walmart workers to unionize and to select the UFCW as their bargaining representative.

“Over the past year – or longer, the UFCW has orchestrated numerous pickets, mass demonstrations, flash mobs and other confrontational activities both inside and outside Walmart facilities in support of its bargaining and recognition demands,” Walmart counsel Steven Wheeless wrote in a letter attached to the complaint. “These have caused disruptions to Walmart’s business, resulted in misinformation being shared publicly about our company, and created an uncomfortable environment and undue stress on Walmart’s customers, including families with children.”

Epstein countered that he’s never seen any protesters attempting to make customers uncomfortable or disrupt their shopping. “What Walmart is trying to do here is basically grasp at straws to try to stop the groundswell of voices coming form their own employees who are protesting the company’s attempts to silence workers,” he said. “That coalition standing in front of the stores on Friday, they’re saying there’s nothing in the law that can stop their voices.”

Walmart fires back

Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo called the demonstrations “unlawful and misleading” and said they do not accurately represent the vast majority of Walmart’s 1.3 million U.S. sales associates, who have no interest in being represented by the UFCW.

“Just to be clear, OUR Walmart is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the UFCW,” he said. “I think, more importantly, there are only a handful of associates at a few stores across the country who are actually participating in these UFCW publicity stunts. Most of the people that UFCW claims are at their events aren’t even Walmart associates – they’re union representatives and other union members.” He cited figures showing that Walmart has a lower turnover rate than the retail industry average and that the company’s wages and benefits are “as good, if not better” than most of its competitors, including unionized grocery stores.

Though Epstein couldn’t comment on whether a judge could take action in time to stop the demonstrations, he said it’s important for the company to send a message with the court filing. “We’re taking this action now because we can’t allow the UFCW to continue to intentionally seek to create an environment that will adversely affect associates and customers,” he said. “And if they do, they will be held accountable.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.