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Sales associates — on both a year-round and seasonal basis — at retailers across the country have gotten their marching orders for the big Black Friday shopping day. But some Walmart associates are thinking of marching all right… right out of the store to strike against the company over opening hours that will interrupt their Thanksgiving holiday.

Walmart stores are scheduled to open at 8pm Thanksgiving evening. One million workers are meant to be on the floor. But staffers at 1,000 locations across the country are planning a work stoppage that could start even before Friday.

As notes, other retailers including Best Buy and Target have pushed up their Black Friday opening hours, giving customers the option to shop basically throughout Thanksgiving Day. And some associates are excited to be part of the day. “We respect the rights of our associates to express their views but if they are scheduled to work, we expect them to show up and do their job,” Kory Lundberg, director of National Media Relations for Walmart told the website in an email.

This isn’t a new argument, but rather one that was also waged last year with many people signing online petitions against the Thursday start to Black Friday. “What seems to really getting folks up in arms, however, is the way that commercialism is creeping into the once-sacrosanct holiday of Thanksgiving, as it becomes commonplace for stores to open with deals aplenty on Thanksgiving night,” writes TIME magazine.

Looking back at one of last year’s petitions, the magazine further reports, “The petition states that it is ‘inhumane and inconsiderate’ to ask employees to work go into work after their holiday dinner and then work through the night into Black Friday.” Other petitions directed at Walmart have argued that the working hours put a strain on and “hurt” families.

The article makes the point that stores wouldn’t open if there weren’t shoppers there to spend money. A valid point. But part of the reason that shoppers are there is because they want to make the most of the holidays, which includes gifts for everyone. And with these tough economic times, people will go to great lengths to save precious dollars any way they can. If that means getting to the shops earlier and earlier each year, so be it. It’s kind of chicken and egg. But we would be curious to find out if the same people show up every year for the doorbuster deals, or if these earlier hours are attracting even more people or leading to more sales. (Some local media are reporting that lines are already forming.)

But back to the headline. Walmart’s VP of communications made an appearance on CNN today and the reporter, Carol Costello, brought up the fact that Walmart pays some of its workers wages that are barely above the poverty level even as the net income for the retailer during the third quarter was $3.63 billion and as the wage gap in the US grows. Think Progress pulls the quote (emphasis theirs): 

Our average rate is about $12.40 an hour far a full time associate. We also offer comprehensive benefit packages as low as $17 a pay period, which is very affordable and we also pay quaterly bonuses, which is something that not a lot of retailers do…. And we know that they appreciate that, they also get a 10 percent discount card. So you have to factor in all of those things when you’re looking for how we’re helping associates.  
Most of Tovar’s other comments spoke to how fair Walmart is, how great Black Friday is, how happy employees are, and how wonderful it is to work at Walmart. Making Change at Walmart, which is leading the Black Friday protest, wants $13 per hour and more affordable healthcare benefits.
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