GREEN BAY - You have a little more than one week until Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
While shoppers hope to get good deals the day after Thanksgiving, Walmart employees say they haven't been getting a good deal on the job.
Current and former employees say they are fed up with the company's low wages, inconsistent hours and poor work conditions which make it difficult to support their families.
"We're not angry, we're just frustrated because we want to see positive change," said Colby Harris of Dallas, Texas in a conference call with the media Thursday.
Harris, who identified himself as a Walmart employee and member of OUR Walmart, a Walmart employee rights organization, says that's why some employees are hoping to use the unofficial shopping holiday to bring about change.
"We don't have any choice. Everything else that we've tried, you know, the sit downs, and the talks, they don't want to hear it," said Harris of efforts he's taken on his own to improve his work environment.
In the call, worker's rights organizers say there are plans to initiate about 1,000 protests or strikes across the country against the retailer. That includes an event in Milwaukee.
Unions are backing the protests by Walmart's non-union workers. That includes the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which is behind the Making Change at Walmart campaign. Wisconsin's American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations chapter is also supporting the protests.
"They certainly have enough money to pay these workers a little bit more, it will be good for the workers, good for their families and good for the U.S. Economy," said Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary/treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO chapter in a phone interview Thursday.
"It's a tactic, obviously to try and create the most pressure they can," explained Bob Burns, a labor and employment lawyer with Davis & Kuelthau attorneys in Green Bay.
Burns says having union power behind non-union employees helps disseminate their message.
But says union or not, fulltime or part-time, Walmart employees already have legal rights to dispute wages, working conditions and safety.
"Employees under the law have the right to engage in what's referred to as concerted activity, to raise issues that deal with their conditions of employment," explained Burns.
Burns says whether or not the protests and strikes are effective depend on what the long-term goals of the worker's rights organizations are and if they can be communicated effectively.
Details of the protests or strikes – like where and how many people will be involved – are not yet known. Employee organizers say those details will come out in the coming days.
Kory Lundberg, Walmart's director of national media relations emailed FOX 11 the following statement Thursday evening:
"We have a great group of associates at Walmart. We'll have more than one million associates working throughout the holiday weekend and they're excited about our Black Friday plans this year. This is the Super Bowl for retailers and we're ready.
"We've been working on our Black Friday plans for almost a year now and we're prepared to have a great event. Our associates care about providing a great customer experience on Black Friday and we're confident that's what customers will have at Walmart this year.
"The fact is, many of these ongoing tactics being orchestrated by the UFCW are unlawful and we will act to protect our associates and customers from the ongoing illegal conduct."
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