Christine Williams featured on KEYE

Wal-Mart Employees Prepare To Walk Out On Black Friday

As Wal-Mart gears up for its Black Friday sale, some employees are preparing to walk out. But other employees we spoke with in the Austin area fear they could lose their jobs for speaking their mind. The protests are organized by “Our Wal-Mart” a national group representing Wal-Mart employees.The group has the support of The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Wal-Mart employee Topaz Chambers is scheduled to work on Thanksgiving, but she wants people to know that working the holiday isn’t the only reason people are protesting. She makes $8.25 an hour and says it’s difficult to make ends meet. “I have to get personal loans just to pay my bills, so right now I’m kind of in debt, so I’m trying to pay those back. It’s really hard working here,” she says.

Christine Williams is the chair of the Sociology Department at the University of Texas and author of Inside Toy Land, a study of low wage retail work. She says many see the walk out as another attempt to unionize Wal-Mart workers. Williams says, “While there are tons of workers that are employed by Wal-Mart that would love to see a union, it’ll still be an uphill battle.”

Williams is skeptical because of Wal-Mart’s ability to fight against the formation of unions, but she does think the protests will help improve conditions. “I think by taking this job action, the workers at Wal-Mart will get more public sympathy and will get some concession so they can live a decent life on the jobs that they have,” she says.

As for Wal-Mart executives, they say they have a strict anti-retaliation policy and add that if any associates have concerns they want to hear about them and will take action. But employees like Topaz Chambers say they don’t want to take any chances and has deciding not to walk out. She says, “Eventually they’re going to find something to fire you about. I wish I had the mojo to actually do it but I’m kind of scared.”

By Lydia Pantazes

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