Misguided protest

Planned Wal-Mart employee protests a bad idea
Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:13 AM

Gone are the days when most businesses shut down on key holidays. Many remember when Thanksgiving and Christmas meant  a rare gas station and convenience store would be open, but little else.

Times have changed, and people’s shopping habits as well. Businesses must cater to their customers’ needs, not employees’ desires, to survive. And while most people feel underpaid and overworked, that may be the business model for some time to come as we work through this recession.

Wal-Mart workers are demanding better pay and benefits, and to show their dissatisfaction some vow to mount 1,000 protests online and outside stores up to and including Black Friday. To be effective, the approach will require protest leaders to turn out significant numbers of strikers and persuade shoppers to go elsewhere. That seems unlikely.

The protesters are demanding more-predictable schedules, less-expensive health-care plans and minimum hourly pay of $13 with the option of working full-time. The average hourly full- time wage at Wal-Mart is $12.57, Kory Lundberg, a company spokesman, said in an email to Bloomberg News. To make their demands known, they plan a protest that could disrupt some Black Friday shopping.

It’s a protest that, if successful, will cause some harm to the nation’s biggest retailer and one of its biggest employers. But what would that accomplish? Protesters risk losing their jobs, especially in at-will states where employers can dismiss workers with little or no cause. If shoppers take their business elsewhere, how does that help any employee?

It’s a new world, one in which union influence has waned and employers hold a distinct upper hand. You don’t like working conditions and pay? Move on. But to make life miserable for the customers whose spending pays your salary — that is silly and misguided.