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Walmart Downplays Black Friday Protests

Bentonville, Ark. – Organized protests by Walmart workers nationwide on Black Friday did little to dampen Thanksgiving period sales, the discount chain said.

Walmart reported 22 million customer visits on Thursday, more than last year, with many shoppers responding to a 10 p.m. CE sale Thanksgiving night. That promotion guaranteed in-stocks on three doorbusters – an iPad 2, Emerson 32-inch LCD TV and an LG Blu-ray player – and garnered an “amazing” turnout, the retailer said.

Indeed, during the high traffic period from 8 p.m. through midnight, Walmart processed nearly 10 million register transactions at a rate of nearly 5,000 items per second, and sold some 1.3 million TVs, the company reported.

Walmart U.S. president/CEO Bill Simon downplayed Thursday night protests in Miami, Dallas, Wisconsin and San Francisco by OUR Walmart (the Organization United For Respect at Walmart), which he said were held at only 26 stores and involved less than 50 employees nationwide.

But the organization, comprised of disgruntled store workers and supporters, and backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), saved its larger planned protest for Black Friday, when some 1,000 Walmart stores in more than 100 cities across 46 states were targeted.

The group said it used strikes, rallies, flash mobs, “direct action” and other efforts to raise consumer awareness and to protest management retaliation against workers who “speak out for better jobs” that provide a living wage and affordable health care.

“Walmart has spent the last 50 years pushing its way on workers and communities,” said Mary Pat Tifft, an OUR Walmart member and 24-year associate who led a protest Thanksgiving evening in Kenosha, Wis. 

Walmart said the number of Black Friday protests reported by the UFCW was “grossly exaggerated,” putting the count at several dozen, and noted that more than 60 percent fewer workers missed their schedule shift this year than last.

 The company added that all sales associates receive a 10 percent discount on general merchandise throughout the year, were given a special holiday discount of 10 percent off most food items from Nov. 9 to Jan. 1, and that those who worked the Black Friday period received holiday pay and an additional 10 percent discount on a basket of goods.

But when asked repeatedly on NBC’s “Today Show” last week whether Walmart retaliates against employee protestors, chief merchandising and marketing officer Duncan Mac Naughton told co-host Samantha Guthrie that situations are addressed on “a case-by-case basis.”