Typically one of the busiest shopping days of the year for retailers, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) may need to brace itself this Black Friday as its workers plan a massive walk-out in protest of low wages and high health-care costs.
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The world's largest retailer, though, says it is prepared.
Workers that are part of a union-backed employee coalition called Making Change at Wal-Mart say they are staging nationwide protests that began earlier this week and will go through Black Friday.
“If Wal-Mart doesn’t end its attempts to silence workers, they will make Black Friday a very memorable day for the company – complete with actions inside and outside of the stores and a possible nationwide strike,” the coalition said on its website.
Strikes that began as early as Wednesday in a few stores from Southern California to Seattle are expected to be just the beginning of what the coalition said will be a 1,000-protest movement from now through Black Friday weekend.
Workers have also announced impending strikes in major Wal-Mart hubs like Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee and Washington D.C.
The retailer, though, is saying that the strikes are unlawful, merely “tactics being orchestrated” by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and pledged to protect associates and customers from the “ongoing illegal conduct.”
“This is just another exaggerated publicity campaign aimed at generating headlines to mislead our customers and associates,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said.
Worker unrest has been mounting, and some of Wal-Mart’s 1.4 million workers have been speaking out over the last few months against what they are saying is a “manipulation of hours and benefits” by the world’s largest retail chain as well as discrimination of women and minorities.
In October, workers held the first-ever strikes against the Bentonville, Ark.-based giant in Wal-Mart's 50-year history, protesting working conditions and low pay, which they say were met with threats of suspensions and terminations.
As for Black Friday, Wal-Mart said it will have more than one million associates working throughout the holiday weekend and is prepared for the official launch to the holiday shopping season.
“This is the Super Bowl for retailers and we’re ready,” the spokesman said. “We’ve been working on our Black Friday plans for almost a year now and we’re prepared to have a great event.”