Threat of Wal-Mart Protests Could Affect Black Friday Frenzy

Lines at Wal-Mart this Black Friday might not only long, but also incredibly slow moving as employees threaten to walk off the job instead of starting their Black Friday shifts on Thanksgiving Thursday.

Last year, stores that opened doors earlier saw as much as a 22 percent sales increase, while stores that remained closed lost as much as 8 percent.

Among the retailers slated to stay open on Turkey Day are Target, Wal-Mart, Sears, KMart and—for the first time—the Fifth Avenue Lord & Taylor flagship. Gap stores are offering particularly long hours, inviting shoppers for bargains and deal-hunting from 9am to 9pm.

Workers have protested the hours at the Wal-Mart in Landover Hills, Md., and some plan not to show for work. The United Food and Commercial Workers union said some employees have already walked out in protest of treatment by the retail giant.

In addition to opposing the Thanksgiving hours, employees also want better pay and cheaper health care.

"We are human beings and not just animals that they can just take for a joke,” Elaine Rozier said.

Most customers News4 talked to didn't know about the labor dispute, and the ones that did said they're not really concerned about it. They still want to go to the store and get a good deal.

“They usually have the better price than most other places around,” Joe Kerley said.

“I would still come here,” another customer said, “but it's just going to be crazy.”

Some shoppers are willing to skip Thanksgiving for Black Friday. People were already lined up outside the Potomac Yard Best Buy in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday night, where doors open at midnight.

Wal-Mart is downplaying the protests, saying it only expects a handful on Black Friday. The company has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the UFCW union of unlawfully interfering, even though it doesn’t represent Wal-Mart employees.

"We think our workers are getting some really bad advice from the unions, because while they do have rights and we respect those rights, there are some actions that we will take if people don't follow our company policies," Wal-Mart spokesperson David Tovar said.

Wal-Mart has a plan in place for Black Friday, but it’s unclear how many employees in the D.C. area will protest. Wal-Mart says they believe any protests will affect only a few stores.

Are you planning to shop on Black Friday? News4 wants to see your experience. Send us your photos and stories of long lines, great deals and more on Twitter and Instagram using #BlackFridayDC.
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