Will Wal-Mart Workers Strike in South Philly on Black Friday?

Over the past six months, Wal-Mart workers nationwide have begun strikes and picket lines—most recently in Washington, D.C.—asking their company for higher wages and more hours. On Black Friday, organizers with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 1776 and other community groups will bring the fight to the South Philadelphia Wal-Mart on Columbus Boulevard to support the striking workers around the country and those in Philadelphia with labor grievances.

It’s not clear if the South Philly Wal-Mart workers will be on strike for the biggest shopping day of the year (which was born in Philadelphia, by the way). “It’s not a scripted situation,” says UFCW spokesman Bill Epstein. Rather, he says, organizers with UFCW, Fight for Philly and other community groups will be asking customers Friday morning to sign a petition, which the organizers then hope to give to the store’s manager, who (hopefully!) will, in turn, hand it to the president of Wal-Mart. The workers are free to join in, of course.

“What we’re hearing from Wal-Mart workers [in Philadelphia] is they want more hours,” Epstein says. “People are more desperate for work. They can’t raise their family working there. There is a lot of unhappiness working in these stores. If they complain, they get an attitude and less hours.”

The company, for its part, seems poised to fight back. Steven Restivo, a Wal-Mart spokesman, told the local CBS affiliate: “We intend to win here at Wal-Mart.” Another spokesman has called the entire controversy an “exaggerated union campaign.”

Fight For Philly spokesman Jesse Kudler assures us that members of the community-organizing group will be at Wal-Mart on Friday to stand in solidarity with workers around the country. The group has additionally begun a “Stand With Wal-Mart Strikers on Black Friday” event page on Fight for Philly’s website.

“It may not sound like much to say we’re standing in solidarity and in support,” says Epstein. “We just don’t want this company to lead this nation a race to the bottom, which is what they’re doing.”

On Monday, Wal-Mart filed a legal action against UFCW, claiming the union has been unlawfully disrupted business by staging these protests over the last six months. The company filed the grievance with the National Labor Relations Board for an injunction against rallies, pickets and flash mobs (the real kind). Epstein says there is no plan for unionization at the Columbus Boulevard Wal-Mart, though they have been in talks with some workers.

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