As if competing against Target, Best Buy and Amazon.com isn’t challenging enough, nationwide the fast-food “strike” which took place Thursday offered a glimpse of the type of headline-grabbing, disruptive activities Walmart can expect from its opponents this holiday season.
Organized labor attempted to orchestrate worker protests at Walmart stores last year on Black Friday and encouraged workers to walk off the job at select locations. The actual number of workers who left their posts was miniscule, but the effort garnered considerable publicity, further disparaged Walmart’s reputation, but was said to have no impact on sales.
On Thursday, in a prelude to what Walmart may expect from the United Food and Commercial Worker (UFCW) come November, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) took on the entire fast food industry with a series of walk-off-the-job events. The events were carefully communicated to the media to ensure maximum exposure and highlight the rate of pay the typical worker at a McDonald’s or Taco Bell receives. SEIU said the strikes took place in 60 cities, a view Rob Green, executive director of the National Council of Chain Restaurants took exception to.
“A few scattered protests organized by outside labor groups hardly amounts to a nationwide ‘strike’ or movement,” Green said. “The vast majority of fast-food workers across the country are committed to their jobs and realize that the restaurant industry provides an important first step into the world of work as well as long-term career opportunities. Beyond teen-agers and some part-timers, most restaurant workers make more than minimum wage, and can work their way up to management-level and corporate-level positions that provide rewarding career paths.”
Those comments sound remarkably similar to points made by Walmart executives who often rebut criticism of the company’s wages by pointing to the opportunity the jobs offer. At the company’s shareholders’ meeting back in June, Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke characterized the jobs the company offers as a “path forward and a ladder up.”
He was referring to the opportunity that exists in an organization with 2.2 million employees where talent and hard work is said to allow workers to go as far as they want.
Even so, opportunity doesn’t pay the bills, something organized labor is sure to remind shoppers of again this holiday season as it looks to recruit disgruntled employees to stage protests.