Black Friday bargain-hunters could face picket lines at Walmart stores in San Leandro that are becoming focal points in a nationwide effort to unionize the company that Sam Walton started more than 50 years ago.
Walmart has never had unions. Its management has been the target of a gamut of complaints having to do with pay, benefits, hours and other workplace issues.
Some current Walmart employees, informally joined under the OUR Walmart banner, have been working with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union to organize a vote to determine whether or not employees wanted to unionize.
In October a handful of workers at the Walmart at the corner of Hesperian and Lewelling Boulevards took part in a nationwide walkout . It was a strike but that was a misnomer -- because the workers were not officially recognized as a union and the numbers involved were miniscule.
Nevertheless, the "strike" attracted so much media attention that organizers threatened to hold similar actions on Black Friday.
As a prelude, on Wednesday, November 14, several dozen Walmart workers and supporters staged not a walkout but a walk-through the Hesperian Walmart, wearing green shirts and shouting slogans, according to a labor movement blog.
Both Walmarts -- the Hesperian store that has already seen two protests and another store on Davis Street -- will probably see picket lines on Friday. Flyers circulating among activist groups are urging union supporters who don't work for the company to take part along with any Walmart employees who take part.
Walmart has asked the National Labor Relations Board to file an injunction against the actions, on the grounds that these picket liness are not part of a recognized labor action.
But an NLRB spokeswoman told Patch on Wednesday that the body would not have time to make a decision on that request before Friday.
A Walmart spokeswoman said the company doesn't think the protests will affect holiday shoppers.
"Our stores will be operating normally on Black Friday and our customers will see nothing unusual when they shop," Walmart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie told Patch. "These so called protests involve a handful of associates at a handful of stores. In fact most of the protesters don’t even work for Walmart. They are union organizers and union members."
Read more about the local Walmart protests.
(Editor' note, Nov. 23: As an outgrowth of that meeting union supporters held a Thanksgiving night demonstration at the Hesperian store. This Patch story contains a video interview of one store worker who walked off the job to take part in the demonstration.)