(NEW YORK) — The latest news in the Wal-Mart labor protests, which have included walkouts and marches in Dallas, San Diego, Chicago and Los Angeles, is the threat of a strike on Black Friday. That’s the day after Thanksgiving, widely considered the busiest and most lucrative retail day of the year.
Some 200 angry protesters showed up at a meeting of investors and analysts Wednesday at Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. Under discussion at the meeting was Wal-Mart’s intent to go head-to-head with Amazon and offer same-day delivery.
Wal-Mart is the world’s largest private employer and has long been a target of workers’ rights groups, which advocate higher wages, more flexibility in hours and an end to the punishments like reduced shifts they claim are meted out to workers seeking to unionize.
Evelin Cruz, a department manager at Wal-Mart in Pico Rivera, Calif., told ABC News that for many years she kept quiet about what she views as the company’s unjust labor practices because she feared she would be fired if she spoke up.
“People were really tired that any time they would speak out against the pay, hours, how much they would work, that management would cut their hours or not give them a schedule,” said Cruz, who is one of thousands of members of Our Wal-Mart, a labor organization backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers that defends Wal-Mart workers’ rights.
Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman disputes the organization’s claims, saying that most employees have “repeatedly rejected unionization.
“They seem to recognize that Walmart has some of the best jobs in the retail industry — good pay, affordable benefits and the chance for advancement,” he said in a telephone interview with ABC News.
Wal-Mart and its practices have made the news a lot lately. In mid-September, warehouse workers in Southern California were on a 15-day strike that included a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage for safe jobs. Around the same time, hundreds of people marched in Dallas and San Diego, demanding better work conditions.
On Monday, Chicago police dressed in riot gear arrested 17 peaceful protesters blocking the entrance to a warehouse operated by an outside contractor that supplies Wal-Mart stores, in Elwood, Ill. The protesters were there to show support for workers who had been on strike since Sept. 15, the Chicago Sun Times reported. What’s more, the company faces yet another sex discrimination lawsuit, filed on behalf of 100,000 women in California and Tennessee.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
David Goldman, CNN
Kathryn Vasel, CNN
Debra Goldschmidt, CNN