While the lead retail story on the evening news this past weekend was far and away Black Friday mania, the secondary one in many markets dealt with the union-led protests at several dozen to hundreds of Walmart's across the country.
The facts get murky quickly.
The United Food & Commercial Workers International Union claimed it had commitments to support more than 1,000 demonstrations at Walmart stores around the country on Thanksgiving night and Black Friday. Handing out fliers and holding signs that read "Walmart = greed" and "Walmart = 1%," the protesters included union members and local community activists as well as some Walmart employees.
The group, OUR Walmart, claimed hundreds of Walmart employees did not report to work Friday as part of a formal strike. The protests were said to be aimed not at union recognition but fighting the retaliation workers have faced over the years around wages, benefits and other issues.
Walmart refuted those charges and also countered that union organizers "grossly exaggerated" both the number of rallies and the participation by Walmart employees. Walmart indicated in a statement that it was aware of only a "few dozen" protests at its stores with the number of associates that missed their scheduled shift on Friday being down 60 percent from Black Friday in 2011.
"We had our best Black Friday ever and OUR Walmart was unable to recruit more than a small number of associates to participate in these made for TV events," Walmart said in the statement. "Press reports are now exposing what we have said all along — the large majority of protesters aren't even Walmart workers."
Still, local networks and newspapers covered what appeared to be at least several small protests at Walmart stores. In Paramount, CA, nine were arrested for blocking traffic.
"What's most inspiring is that we find the workers are standing up themselves for respect," Eric Lee, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said on a conference call, reported by The New York Times. "They have the support of our entire community."
How would you characterize the state of employer/employee relationship across the retail industry today?