Black Friday Protests Are Little More Than A Union PR Campaign

For many Americans, Black Friday has become more popular than Thanksgiving itself. This is especially true for unions like the United Food and Commercial Workers and its “workers center” OUR Walmart. In contrast to most Americans who see Black Friday as simply an opportunity to score some inexpensive swag, the UFCW views it as an opportunity to advance its union agenda.

For the third year in a row, OUR Walmart is planning to cash in on the media’s interest in the day to stage “protests” at Walmart stores across the country. Of course these protests involve few actual Walmart associates and are little more than stage managed events by big labor’s PR firm, BerlinRosen, whom the UFCW paid $240,614 last year, according to filings with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Previous protests have fallen spectacularly flat. In one last November, OUR Walmart was unable to reach its disclosed goal of turning out just 500 Walmart associates. (Walmart estimated that fewer than 20 turned out). Similar rallies have also proven to be Potemkin village protests, despite financial rewards offered by the UFCW.

For the most part, the media has been happy to buy in to this PR campaign, referring to OUR Walmart as an independent organization that simply wants better worker conditions for associates. This despite the fact that publically available filings with the Department of Labor expose the group as a “labor organization” and a “subsidiary organization” of the UFCW.

Perhaps one reason why OUR Walmart has had so much trouble turning out actual Walmart associates for protests is because Walmart seems to be – by-and-large – a good place to work. “This is a good day the Lord has made. I’m rejoicing and leaping for joy,” new Walmart associate Meka Allen told Black Voices News upon being hired. “People like to bash Walmart. But I think there’s a lesson here on who really cares for the working class in this country.”

Job application data certainly backs up this view. A staggering 23,000 applicants applied for just 600 positions at the new Washington D.C. location. This isn’t out of the norm. Walmart Executive Vice President Rosalind Brewer told Fortune that each new Walmart store hires about 450 workers out of an applicant pool of 5,000 to 6,000.

But what of the claims made by OUR Walmart regarding low pay and working conditions? Walmart pays an average wage of $12.92 to its hourly employees, which is higher than comparative independent stores, according to a recent studyby economists from Stanford and University of Michigan.

But you won’t hear this from OUR Walmart because these messages won’t put any money in the pockets of union bosses. Black Friday shoppers who encounter “protesters” complaining about exploitation should take a moment to consider who’s actually exploiting whom in this relationship. But only for a moment, or else someone else will get that flatscreen.

Richard Berman is executive director of the Center for Union Facts