Bay Area Walmart workers plan to walk off the job on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday -- some of the busiest shopping days of the year -- in solidarity with labor strikes at stores nationwide.
Workers at the San Leandro, Fairfield, San Jose and Richmond locations will strike against what they call the company's continuing retaliation against workers speaking out.
The days of action are spearheaded by OUR Walmart, a group backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
The workers, which union representatives said are comprised of cashiers, stockers, department managers and other positions, are calling for improved work conditions, which include a safer and more respectful work environment and an end to threats of termination or pay cuts.
Tony Alexander with UFCW Local 5 in San Jose said as part of a labor union they see these strikes as an opportunity to defend workers' rights.
As to holding the protests on the busy shopping day, Alexander said, "Black Friday is always a little crazy" and that "over the years, there have been a number of different issues happening at Walmart" that need to be brought to light on a day when there is focus on the superstore.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. officials dismissed the notion that there are widespread labor issues with the company's 1.3 million workers, according to company spokeswoman Ashley Hardie.
"We do not expect these actions by a very small minority of our associates at a handful of stores to have any impact on our stores or our customers' shopping experience on Black Friday," Hardie said. "This is the Super Bowl for retailers and we're ready. We've been working on our Black Friday plans for almost a year now and we're prepared to have a great event."
Friday's protests are not anticipated to disrupt the day of shopping at any of the roughly 4,000 locations in the U.S., according to The day is expected to see normal holiday shopping operations with more than one million associates working throughout the holiday weekend.
"We are laser focused on serving customers on Black Friday and we are preparing to have our best Black Friday ever," Hardie said.
Hardie charged that most of the protesters don't work for Walmart and are instead union organizers and members.
Additionally, the company upholds that employee data indicates more work satisfaction than the protests suggest.
"Our pay and benefits plans are as good or better than our retail competitors, including those that are unionized. If they weren't, we wouldn't be able to hire people and staff our stores. Last year alone, we received five million job applications," Hardie contested.
She said the company cares for its workers.
"We appreciate our associates for everything they do to serve our customers during this busy shopping season and every day throughout the year. Walmart's success is due to their hard work and dedication," she said.
Last Friday, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. filed a complaint against the strikes with the National Labor Relations Board.
The company charged picketing in the past six months has violated labor law, according to NLRB Public Affairs Director Nancy Cleeland.
The NLRB turned the case over to their Washington, D.C. office for further review today and will not be issuing any decision this week.
The agency is expected to announce a decision sometime next week, possibly dismissing the charge or going to court and seeking an injunction against any future picketing action at Walmart stores, Cleeland said.
"It's a complex issue," Cleeland said. She added further legal review was necessary for this case, which was also complicated by Thanksgiving holiday scheduling.
The Bay Area strikes will be held on Thursday at 8 p.m. at 15555 Hesperian Blvd. in San Leandro, on Friday at 7 a.m. at 2701 N. Texas St. in Fairfield, at 9 a.m. at 1400 Hilltop Mall Road in Richmond, at noon at 777 Story Road in San Jose and at 4 p.m. at the San Leandro store.
-- Bay City News Service