Black Friday: Union Backed Wal Mart Protests Fizzle

(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

For weeks now, we’ve heard a lot about OUR Walmart’s plans to disrupt the big box retailer’s Black Friday sales. Media outlets breathlessly reported that the union-backed protests and employee walkouts might cause the company severe financial damage. Heck, even Wal-mart was reportedly worried about the union’s Black Friday plans.

So how did it turn out?

Well, to quote Megan McArdle writing in the Daily Beast, “the planned protests were mostly a fizzle.”

Indeed, despite the promise of disruptive protests of epic proportions, Wal-Mart is well on its way to breaking all previous Back Friday sales records.

Wal-Mart “says it has had the best Black Friday ever in the United States despite threats of walkouts and protests by employees over wage and benefit issues,” the Boston Herald reports.

“The world’s largest retailer said it saw larger crowds than last year and a huge response to its first-ever one-hour guarantee on a trio of electronic items,” the report adds.

Said Bill Simon, Wal-Mart U.S. president and chief executive officer, of the company’s Back Friday performance:

I’m so proud of what our more than 1.3 million associates have done to prepare and execute our Black Friday plans, giving our customers a great start to their Christmas shopping season.

The work of our associates is even more impressive when you consider they served approximately 22 million customers on Thursday.

How big were the company’s sales? Well, there isn’t a hard number yet, but early sales would indicate the company did very, very well.

“During the high traffic period from 8 p.m. through midnight, Walmart nationally processed nearly 10 million register transactions and almost 5,000 items per second [emphases added],” the Boston Herald report adds.

In fact, according to the same report, between 8:00 p.m. ET last night and 12:00 p.m. today, Walmart sold about 1.3 million televisions, 1.3 million dolls, and 250,000 bicycles.

Here’s a time lapse video of just one Wal-Mart location on Black Friday [via The Gateway Pundit]:

Meanwhile, SEIU members, #Occupy diehards, and operatives with Moveon.org were doing this [via The Nation]:

Funny thing though: Of the people who participated in today’s nationwide demonstrations, very few of them were actual Wal-Mart employees, meaning today’s action was a whole lot like the Service Employees International Union’s Wednesday protest of the Los Angeles International Airport.

“This is the way you get a fair shake. You’ve got to fight for it. You’ve always had to,” said protester Charlie May, of the Industrial Workers of the World labor organization, according to a report by the Associated Press.

“No Walmart workers in attendance at Mobile Walmart picketing,” reads one Alabama newspaper headline.

Needless to say, Simon is happy with how today turned out for the company.

“We had very safe and successful Black Friday events at our stores across the country and heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers,” said Simon, adding that “Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates.”

Okay, so maybe the protests were not as big as some had expected. But surely those walkouts were problematic for the company, right?

“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.

Unsurprisingly, union leaders dispute Simon’s numbers. The union group estimated that “hundreds” of employees participated nationwide.

Now, to be fair, as Wal-Mart’s CEO, Simon has every reason to underestimate/downplay the number of employees who walked out. However, as McArdle notes, OUR Walmart has been awfully quiet on this topic, meaning the union-backed group “has not given any particular reason to disbelieve [Simon’s figures].”

McArdle continues, offering a possible explanation for why Black Friday turned out the way it did for the unions:

In any sufficiently large group, you can find a few people who will do anything. And 1.4 million is a very large group.  OurWalmart does not need to prove that it can find fifty or even one hundred and fifty people in that group who are willing to walk off the job, nor that it can get members of the United Food and Commercial Workers to protest in Walmart parking lots.  Organizing Walmart–or even extracting labor concessions in the face of threatened unionization–means getting a significant number of employees to join them in a labor action.  This was not that labor action.  It was not even the labor action that could eventually snowball into that labor action.

[…]

… Black Friday bargain hunters apparently simply pushed past the scattered protests in search of cheap flat-screen televisions–and the progressives who seem most on fire about this campaign are not really very likely to be Walmart shoppers.  Which could be a metaphor for the whole US labor movement.

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