Will Wal-Mart Be Able to Ignore These Protests?

Ahead of the largest shopping day of the year, many Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) employees as preparing to protest. However, experts are predicting that the strategy will have little impact on the retailer.

Wal-MartWorkers, supported by OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart, are planning more than 1,000 protests online and in front of stores to demand better pay. Currently, the average full-time hourly wage is $12.57; workers are asking that it be raised to $13 per hour. They also want more-predictable schedules and less-expensive healthcare plans.

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Strikes have taken place in the past, but for the most part they have been ineffective. As The New York Times reported Sunday, Wal-Mart has repeatedly fended off “efforts by unions and their supporters to organize its workers.” But this year, the tactic is different; the United Food & Commercial Workers union has backed OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart and launched a media relations campaign against the company.

Already the protests have begun; on November 15, approximately 30 workers from the Seattle-area went on strike. Yet given the company’s size, Wal-Mart has more than 1.4 million employees in the United States, and its past reactions to strikes, experts do not believe that the union’s current strategy will have much of an effect on the retailer.

“Shoppers in the parking lot will say ‘Oh, that’s terrible — OK, where do I get my discounted electronics,’” said Northwestern University associate law professor Zev J. Eigen to Bloomberg. “That’s one of the big challenges for the labor movement. We’ll sign online petitions, but we won’t vote with our wallets.”

It is unclear how many workers are in support of OUR Walmart, and the group has declined to state how many will be involved in the protests. Wal-Mart told The New York Times that it expects only a few small protests because the “union-orchestrated effort” does not represent how most employees fell. Even the company’s Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley said he was unaware of the scheduled protests on a November 15 conference call.

However, the company still filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board later that day, requesting that the board prevent OUR Walmart from holding what the company called the “biggest protest of this kind.”

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