MILWAUKEE — Big box chain Wal-Mart is set to make headlines on Black Friday — but it’s not about the sales. Employees nationwide are planning a walkout to fight against what workers call employer retaliation.
In the months prior to Black Friday — one of the biggest shopping days of the year, thousands of Wal-Mart employees have been protesting against claims of employer retaliation due to employees speaking out for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care.
Wal-Mart denies any retaliation.
Wal-Mart says it has a strict anti-retaliation policy. However, some who are protesting say oftentimes, if one complains, the big box store will shuffle around schedules, cut hours or move the employee to another department.
"We're here today becuase we're standing up, speaking out against Walmart retaliating against associates for speaking out. They're trying to silence us for speaking out about low wages, unaffordable healthcare and the respect that we are asking them for," said Walmart employee Mary Pat Tifft.
On Thursday night, November 22nd, roughly three dozen protesters waved signs and called for respect outside the Wal-Mart in Kenosha. Some of the protesters were employees and others were union supporters.
On Black Friday, more than 100 protesters gathered outside the Wal-Mart at 60th and Capitol to fight against what they call employer retaliation and unfair labor practices. The protesters then boarded buses and traveled to two other Wal-Mart stores in the area to spread their message.
"I called in under an EOP strike," said Walmart employee Steven French, who was scheduled to work Black Friday.
"It's sad that you work for one of the richest retailers in america in the world and a lot of us still have to depend on state aid," he said.
Walmart's workforce is non-unionized, so wage and benefit negotiations are left to the individual employees.
"We need better working conditions for the Walmart workers, and we need decent schedules so they can take care of their families. They (Walmart) cannot afford a couple dollars more to pay their workers? That's wrong, it's wrong," said Stephanie Bloomingdale from the AFL-CIO.
Wal-Mart has said only a portion of its employees planed to protest and only a few walked off the job. It says the holiday shopping season was business as usual.
In a statement, Walmart Corporate says it's had the best ever Black Friday events this year, serving 22 million customers nationwide on Thanksgiving Day alone.