Why Didn’t the Walmart Protests Work?

Walmart had its best Black Friday ever, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Walmart’s Black Friday plan included three events this year at 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. During the high traffic period from 8 p.m. through midnight, Walmart processed nearly 10 million register transactions and almost 5,000 items per second.

But what happened to the protests that were supposed to happen yesterday, that was supposed to include Walmart employees? The protests were arranged in conjunction with United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union, as an effort to bring attention to the number of employees making less than $10 per hour, as well as the issue of affordability of health care benefits and workers being given more schedules short of full-time.

The Bee quotes a Walmart spokesperson:

In response to the UFCW’s planned protests, Simon added, “Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates.” In addition, the company did not experience the walk-offs that were promised by the UFCW. “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.

One employee of a Los Angeles-area Walmart explains the ways in which Walmart’s policies negatively impact his life, and how it only seems to get worse. CNN Money quotes 28 year-old Dan Hindman:

Hindman, who says he makes $9.80 an hour and works a varied schedule, says he is speaking out because “How they treat us isn’t fair.” Next year, he says that his insurance premiums, about $106 every two weeks, will increase by more than one-third. At the same time, Wal-Mart is cutting back its contributions.

“I can’t spend Christmas with my four-year-old son. Now it’s Thanksgiving. I thought when I was hired that there was a future with Wal-Mart,” he says. “The community needs to know what is going on. Wal-Mart is part of the community.”

Even so, Hindman says his hours for next week already have been cut back significantly, which he believes is retaliation for speaking out.

In that case, a man making $9.80 per hour, working 40 hours per week makes approximately $1500 per month, paying out about $216 per month for insurance. Put into perspective with how much money Walmart made in their best Black Friday ever, it’s not hard to imagine why the Walmart employees and their supporters are deeply troubled and want change.

So what do you think went wrong, and what needs to change so that Walmart can continue to be profitable (and therefore provide all those jobs, which are necessary) while providing a fair living wage for its employees?

Should more of the employees have walked out, risking their jobs, in order to make change?



AP Photo/Nick Ut

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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    Rob. Insty suggests that, if the unions get more organized next year, management should advertise large flat-screen televisions at $20 for the first hour. You can imagine the rest.

  2. I think it failed because it’s mostly a movement by grocery unions comprised of other grocery store workers fearful of Wal-Mart out competing them and not a “Wal-Mart” movement.

    • Yeaaaahhhh…. That’s right. Wuznt the $100 flat-panel LCD TV or anything like that. People checked with their local Grocer’s Union. Yeah…


  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    A book on Walmart some years ago–the author was generally negative–admitted against interest that, when Walmart comes to town, grocery prices drop about 15%. That’s their own prices and the competition forcing others down. It’s also about six weeks’ free food for the poor.
    My wife and I have a tradition: When we travel by road, we have a bottle of Oak Leaf from Walmart–closing in on $3 a bottle in this decadent age–every night. She also likes their baked goods. I figure, if nobody shops there, the workers lose their jobs. Am I missing something?

    • Well, by all proposals I heard today, Walmart ought to be owned by The People’s Republic of North America. At that point it need not exist for profit. And, at that point, revenue from the customers ought not matter ever again. Proper value will be placed upon the employees. Proper value will reside where it belongs…with the employee.

      Our schools have met their goal. A populous with protected bananas and no idea of what built this nation.

      We are finished! Its all over but the screaming now.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    If you don’t have much money, and food is about a quarter of your budget, WalMart is the place to go. I suppose you would have to bear the scorn of the concerned better-off, but that’s better than being hungry.
    There’s a reason people shop at Walmart. They can’t afford not to. They can’t afford to make a point by shopping at Whole Paycheck Foods as the enlightened do.

    • Well put Richard!

      Love the Whole Paycheck Foods thing!!!! I walked in there once even when I was in six-figure city and still did an about-face when I saw the prices.

      Without WallyWorld, I would not survive as i do. I would be forced into living a greatly paired-down life…and the only thing left to pair-down is my housing…and i don’t do the room-mate thing well. Regional grocers and national hardware retailers are getting their groove-back. They just had to learn just how tough a street-fight really could be.

      Why the rules of consumerism, profit and capitalism don’t apply to Walmart in the eyes of the public is a total mystery to me. Why don’t I see protestors in front of K-Mart?

      Oh…and $216/month for health insurance? I’d put the bloody sign down (and my head) and get my arse back to work!

    • That’s pretty much it. When you have $15 for food and it’s a week before payday the hard choices have to be made.

      The hyperindividualism that Justin mentions above is supported by the basic needs. Sure it might be easy to decide to not buy that cheaper pair of shoes at WalMart to make a statement. But it’s quite another to decide to basically not eat for a day or two by choosing another store for groceries over WalMart.

      Hell in my own life right now the only reason I’ve got this last $20 in my pocket for gas is because my food for the week is mostly being covered by Thanksgiving leftovers.

  5. Carolyn Holloway says:

    What went wrong: selfish consumers are what went wrong. Never mind that your bargain is supporting a company that cares nothing for your fellow neighbor and your community as long as you get that bargain. There is no such thing as looking out for your fellow man and sharing in their struggle. We are a “me” society that has no problem watching someone else getting kicked.

  6. The rules of employee relations and leverage change with the economy. (BTW: Its not “labor-relations,” until they are organized by a sanctioned, recognized union.)

    People(s) who fail to realize the fundamental realities of capital risk and investment will frequently make the mistake of thinking the employer exists for and at the expense of the employee. With today’s entitlement mentality securely engraved into the population’s skulls, people will wonder “where all the fairness is hiding.”

    Today, we are in the “there’s the door” mode with employee relations.

    There is no such thing in a capitalist environment as “unfair wages.” There are certainly sucky wages, but they are a function of the economy. The sooner people learn the realities of swimming capitalistic waters, the further they will go in life and career.

    The unions just don’t get it. Apparently, neither do the Walmart protestors.

  7. Don’t shop at Walmart. Don’t work at Walmart. That’s all I can say anyone should do, if they’re looking for a way to make a difference. Don’t feed the machine with your grocery dollars or your man-hours. I know the economy’s in the toilet; I know I’m presuming you can find some other way to make it if you don’t do it for Walmart. But that’s how we fix it. We let this problem grow and now it’s huge. This is the shortcoming of our hyperindividualistic society. If none of us feels we can afford to do anything for the good of society or even for their own long-term good, but must always make the shortest term solution, then you end up with what we’ve got. To change things, each of us who can possibly put our shoulder to this must genuinely change. I’m already paying a premium to live according to my principles. You should see our grocery bills. We pay because we can afford to and we really care. If you do, too, and can, I urge you to stop shopping at Walmart, and not to work there.

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