Union Front to Launch Mass ‘Street Theater’ Protest on Black Friday

Liberals, environmentalists flock to Walmart for Black Friday protests

OUR Walmart protest on Black Friday 2012 in New Jersey / AP

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A bevy of liberal groups are getting in on the union-driven Walmart protests scheduled to take place on Black Friday.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union has sponsored protests at hundreds of Walmart locations across the country over the past two years. Those protests have elicited the support of a number of labor unions and agitators, but have been criticized for lacking the support of actual Walmart employees.

Glenn Spencer, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom Initiative, said in a statement that UFCW subsidiary OUR Walmart stands for union interests, rather than workers.

"OUR Walmart doesn’t represent employees, they represent the United Food and Commercial Workers union. No amount of street theater and run-ins with the law changes that," he said.

Protesting the nation’s largest retailer on its busiest shopping day has generated plenty of positive press for the movement. A number of other liberal interest groups are now getting in on the so-called "street theater." Environmentalist groups are now waving the anti-Walmart banner as an extension of going green, according to an OUR Walmart release.

"The fight against income inequality in this country starts at Walmart," said Brooke Anderson of Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project. "As climate justice organizations, we are proud to stand with Walmart workers this Black Friday to speak out for the fair pay and the respect workers deserve and for a sustainable economy that protects the environment and supports working families."

Ryan Williams of Worker Center Watch, said that the anti-Walmart movement is showing its true stripes as a liberal political movement, rather than the pro-worker protest it claims to be.

"Worker centers are working hand in hand with radical environmental groups to replenish Big Labor's depleted coffers instead of actually helping to provide economic opportunity for working families," he said.

Liberal political darlings are also latching on to the movement. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) met with the protest organizations and several dissident Walmart employees on Wednesday to convey her support for the movement and President Obama’s 40 percent hike to the minimum wage, according to the Huffington Post.

"I was glad to join Walmart employees today to support efforts to push back against practices by Walmart and other big corporations that make it hard for working families to make ends meet," Warren said. "Hardworking men and women across the country want a fighting chance to build a future for themselves and their families. We need to give workers this chance by raising the minimum wage, providing some basic fairness in scheduling, and fighting for equal pay for equal work."

The OUR Walmart protests have caused controversy and unrest in the past. The pro-union National Labor Relations Board has been forced to intervene to bar protesters from several Walmart locations. An NLRB judge ordered the UFCW to "cease and desist" from protesting at a Dearborn, Michigan, store after labor agitators stalked female employees in the bathroom and intimidated store employees.

A Walmart location in Texas obtained a restraining order against the union and its front group after a set of disruptive protests in Tarrant County.

"Walmart has demonstrated … that immediate and irreparable injury, loss and damage (for which Walmart has no adequate remedy at law) will result to Walmart in the absence of the requested Temporary Restraining Order," the court found.

Judges in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, and Maryland have granted the company similar relief from the overzealous protesters.

UFCW protest organizers say that this year’s protests will be the largest to date, no matter the limitations imposed by state courts and federal labor regulators. The union and its allies plan on staging "flash mobs, marches and prayer vigils" at Walmart locations across the country.

"A broad group of Americans who plan to protest on Black Friday, including tens of thousands of teachers, voters, members of the clergy, elected officials, civil rights leaders and women’s rights activists say America’s largest employer and richest family are driving the income inequality problems that are holding the country back," the group said in a press release.

Williams said that Walmart employees are being exploited to strengthen the political clout of its organizers.

"The anti-Walmart effort is nothing more than a motley crew of far left groups that are more interested in pushing their liberal agenda than helping workers," he said.

Protests are scheduled to begin on Nov. 28.

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He lives in Alexandria, Va, with his wife and three daughters. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is mcmorris@freebeacon.com.

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