LAKEWOOD–The much-hyped Wal-Mart Black Friday protest proved once again that, given a choice between working and protesting, most people prefer working.
The nationwide strike, slated for 1,000 cities, was aimed at thwarting Wal-Mart management by drawing employees off the job and onto the picket line on the busiest shopping day of the year.
Instead, Wal-Mart reported its “best ever Black Friday,” with an increase in shoppers from last year and fewer missed shifts than 2011 by the company’s employees, known as associates, according to Wal-Mart U.S. president Bill Simon.
“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,” Simon said in a statement.
In Colorado, fewer than 200 protestors turned up outside the Walmart on Colfax and Wadsworth in Lakewood. None of the demonstrators was believed to be a current Walmart employee, said Mark Belkin, organizing director of the United Food and Commercial Workers in Wheat Ridge.
Still, Belkin called the protest a success, saying it was intended to show solidarity with Walmart workers even if they declined to participate.
“I think this was very effective in getting our message out while telling Walmart not to silence their employees,” said Belkin. “We’re not here to hurt Walmart–we’re here to make it a better company.”
The UCFW has fought for years to unionize Walmart, which remains a non-union shop. Organized labor absorbed a public-relations blow last week after Hostess Brands Inc. announced it would shut down after 82 years in business as the result of a crippling strike by the bakery workers’ union.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Hostess had 372 separate collective-bargaining agreements, 80 separate health and benefits plans, and 40 pension programs. Under the union contracts, bread and pastries were required to be transported on separate trucks, and some workers could unload only snacks while others were restricted to unloading bread.
Belkin said the criticism surrounding the Hostess strike amounted to “blaming the victim and using the union as a scapegoat.”
“Hostess has been mismanaged for years. They’ve filed bankruptcy many times,” he said. “People aren’t eating Twinkies the way they used to.”
While the Wal-Mart protest in Lakewood wasn’t huge, it may have been one of the larger gatherings. In Alabama, only 10 picketers showed up Thursday night to protest Wal-Mart’s decision to open on Thanksgiving evening, instead of early Friday morning, according to Alabama.com.
The headline of a CNN-TV report was, “Wal-Mart Protest Draws Hundreds of People Nationwide.”
The protests were organized by a group called OUR Wal-Mart, founded by Wal-Mart associates, which states on its website that “we are not treated with the respect we deserve . . . Join us to improve our work environment and our lives.”
Belkin said the Wal-Mart protests would continue. “This is an ongoing and sustained campaign,” he said. “We’re giving employees the support they need, but it’s their organization, it’s current and former Wal-Mart employees. Hundreds of them have been joining every day.”