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Black Friday: Walmart protests liken back to days before unions (+video)

Walmart protests on Black Friday by some employees are an attempt to shame the company into public action – even though the workers are not organized into a labor union. Extent of Walmart protests still unclear.

More than 100 people marched outside a store in Lakewood, Colorado on Black Friday.
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In staging nationwide protests at Wal-Mart stores on Black Friday, employees and labor unions are turning back the clock – trying to influence America’s largest retailer in ways that were the norm before the union movement started in the 1930s.

The disgruntled employees group organizing Friday’s walkouts, called Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), complains that Wal-Mart pays low wages and sets unfair labor conditions. But since Wal-Mart employees are not organized into a union, they can’t strike to air their grievances.

Instead, the Black Friday protests are only the latest – and most ambitious – of a series of attempts by OUR Walmart and others to publicly shame the company into listening to grievances.

“What is making today so interesting, and what this Walmart group has found, is there may be a way to essentially change Walmart’s behavior legally without having to actually organize 51 percent of the workers,” says Robert Bruno, director of the Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois in Chicago. “While I’m sure that [union organizing] is still the objective, in the meantime they can create a lot of rights using less workers and without having to represent them.”

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