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While thousands of shoppers were out on November 28 making Black Friday purchases, about 30 protesters were picketing the Walmart in Vista. A group of teachers, labor union leaders, students, and one priest gathered at the University Avenue store at 8:30 a.m.

Spokesperson for the group, Shannon Lienhart, co-president of the Palomar Faculty Federation, says the purpose of the protest, organized by the North County Labor Alliance, was to ask shoppers to boycott Walmart until employees are paid a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

I asked Lienhart if she thought a successful boycott would mean a layoff of many workers inside the store. She responded, “Not if they unionize.” She admitted that the protest was really about getting Walmart employees to unionize.

“Do they want to unionize?” I asked.

“There is a lot of fear of job loss if [Walmart employees] become involved,” she said. “We need to educate them.”

In advance of the planned protest, Walmart issued a statement to the Coast News. Company spokesperson Kevin Gardner stated only about one-half of one percent of Walmart’s 1.2 million employees, nationwide, are at minimum wage. “Our associates understand the unparalleled opportunity the company provides, including career growth, cash bonuses, a 401K program education, and training programs,” stated Gardner.

The Vista Walmart general manager (“Todd”) spoke cordially to the group but would not speak to the Reader. I was referred to Walmart’s corporate public relations department, which was not available for comment due to the holiday weekend.

Previously published reports indicate a nationwide group known as “Our Walmart,” made up of current Walmart employees, was organizing similar events to unionize.

Approached in the parking lot before he walked into the store, Steve from Vista was asked if the protest would cause him to change his purchasing decisions. “They [the protesters] are mistaken in their concept,” he said in broken English. “Walmart is for low cost so many people will have jobs. More expensive, less jobs. They are barking up the wrong tree,” he added.

Not wanting to be identified, a 20-year-old collecting Walmart shopping carts in the parking lot said he didn’t care what the protesters were saying. “I make nine bucks an hour, and I’m just here while in school.”

The protesters brought up the wealth of the Walmart family, saying they are “the richest family in America” and “they make too much money.” Lienhart said, “The money spent today is funding the Waltons’ bank account. They can afford to pay their workers a livable wage.”

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Visduh Nov. 30, 2014 @ 10:24 a.m.

To date, I'm unaware of any place where Wally's has been successfully unionized. They play very hard ball whenever it threatens, and some years back revamped their meat-cutting approach to prevent some meat-cutters from organizing and getting a contract. If some unit actually gets organized via a NLRB election, it will be most interesting to see what the company does. Just close the store? That's possible and actually probable.

As to their pay practices, they do not pay as well, or have any sort of benefits package comparable to, unionized retail operations. Some cities in the US have extensive retail unionization, others have none. San Diego has its older supermarkets, mostly Ralphs, Von's, Albertson's, Food-for-Less, and Stater Brothers that are unionized. The newer arrivals, which in Vista and nearby include Sprouts, Frazier Farms, and Smart & Final Extra, are apparently non-union. If that Walmart Supercenter of theirs had to pay the same level of wages as the older supers, it would level the playing field to a large extent.

The picketers/protesters are wide of the mark on ownership of Walmart. The Walton family (several people and trusts representing multiple generations) owns less than half of it now, because it is a large NYSE-traded corporation. There are 3.22 billion (yes, with a "b") shares outstanding, each one worth about $86. I can't find the number of shareholders, but it is sure that nearly every pension plan--including those for unionized workers--holds some Walmart stock. According to a recent report, the Walton family has a worth of about one-hundred fifty billion dollars, a huge amount of wealth to be sure.

The recent complaints of how large retailers now expect their employees to work on holidays such as Thanksgiving, including Wally's, are interesting. In the far distant past, holidays were holidays for everyone except those providing essential services. That was part of a social contract and basic civility that has eroded in some industries to near the vanishing point. Stores getting the jump of the woefully poorly named "Black Friday" by opening on Thanksgiving are very hungry for sales. The whole concept of taking massive markdowns during the time of year when consumers are at their most willing to spend never made any sense. Now there seem to be no limits on that avarice.


danfogel Nov. 30, 2014 @ 11:38 a.m.

They already have closed stores due to unionization. About 10 yrs ago, Walmart closed a store in Canada rather than allow the union in. Before that, they changed the way they do their meat packing so that the meat cutters union couldn't gain traction. And if I recall correctly, a few yrs ago, somewhere back in the southeast, they decided to simply not build a store because it was made known that the union would try to get in the store.


Visduh Dec. 1, 2014 @ 8:51 a.m.

Seattle is a city that has been heavily unionized, and its retail stores are no exception. I did a little looking at Walmart in the Seattle area, and it was revealing. There are few Walmarts in the area, a handful, and most are in the far suburbs and outside the city and county. (By comparison, Oceanside hosts three of them.) That spotty coverage of Seattle is no accident--they just don't want to have to deal with union organizational campaigns that will eventually succeed. Likewise there are literally no Walmart stores in San Francisco. That, too, is inhospitable territory for Wally.


prystalcage Nov. 30, 2014 @ 1:25 p.m.

70% of Wal-Mart workers have a union in China. It's partially because the government requires it there. About 20% of Wal-Mart workers in Mexico have unionized.

Surely, if they can do it the USA can do it too.


Ken Harrison Nov. 30, 2014 @ 7:17 p.m.

I believe the "union" concept in China and Mexico is much different than here in the U.S. I doubt a communist government working in a capitalist global economy would ever allow unions, as we know then here in the U.S.


Bob_Hudson Nov. 30, 2014 @ 8:01 p.m.

"If that Walmart Supercenter of theirs had to pay the same level of wages as the older supers, it would level the playing field to a large extent."

"Level the playing field?" That's an interesting way to say "Raise food prices."

God bless the Vons checkout workers, but it's not skilled labor: the job involves running barcodes in front of a scanner and, as proven in recent years, shoppers can do that themselves at the self-checkout counters.

Except for unionized grocery stores, retail has always sucked as a career path and it was even worse when the typical non-grocery retailer was the so-called Main Street mom and pop shops, which offered very low pay and zero benefits.


aardvark Nov. 30, 2014 @ 11:15 p.m.

Not entirely true. I worked for Home Depot for 25 years, and the first half of that time, wages were well above what was usually paid for non-union retail work. Unfortunately, that ended around the year 2000, when Bob Nardelli took over HD and heeded Wall Street demands to take care of the shareholders first (at the expense of the employees, who ironically used to own lots of HD stock). As the wages started to lag, more employees couldn't afford to even buy stock, let alone afford to pay for little things like health insurance. Or housing. As their hours continue to be cut along with meager annual raises, HD has joined the ranks of many other retail companies. But good for the shareholders, since HD stock is near historical all-time highs.


QueenMe Nov. 30, 2014 @ 4:05 p.m.

Does anyone even know what those GREEDY Waltons do with all of their money? I've read report after report, of the austere lifestyle they all live. It seems even more obscene to me than flaunting it, if the money isn't going to do any good in this world...


Ken Harrison Nov. 30, 2014 @ 7:33 p.m.

The Walton Family gave out $378-million in the last reporting year. And they do not publicly talk about, nor want to be recognized for their gifts. $134-million to education, $55-million to freshwater and marine conservation, and $100 million to colleges and university scholarships. Additionally they are the largest donor to smaller non-profits that support improving life for people in Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta. The Walton Foundation is 2nd in giving only to Bill & Melinda Gates. So in the words of TV's Archie Bunker, "Shad up youz." Thanks for reading.



silverlover Nov. 30, 2014 @ 7:42 p.m.

is their money; they should have the freedom to do whatever they want and spend it as they wish.


QueenMe Nov. 30, 2014 @ 11:01 p.m.

I agree. It IS their money. And they have so much of it thanks to taxpayers supporting their workers. I'm glad to read that they aren't as greedy as I thought.


silverlover Nov. 30, 2014 @ 7:54 p.m.

Walmart is a business to make money; Unions are also a business in to make money and have power from all the members. I have never belonged to a Union because they remind me of the mafia. I do make good money and if I did not I would just look for another job. I do buy at Walmart for the great prices they offer and I do not care what the workers make an hour - the nonsense of people getting paid minimum wage of $15.00 an hour is a job killer. If the raise the prices in order to pay more to the workers then I would buy much less of what I normally buy or buy where there is no union dictating the paid to workers.


AlexClarke Dec. 1, 2014 @ 6:33 a.m.

You have bought into the myth that is prompted by conservatives and corporations for the past 40 years that unions are corrupt and do nothing but take their members money. As the private sector unions have been destroyed so has the middle class gone. Everything we do is by contract, buying a home or car or renting, everything. Employers have contracts with their suppliers and service providers everyone except their employees. Members of a union vote for their leadership and they dictate to that leadership what they want in an upcoming contract. The union representatives negotiate with company representatives to arrive at an employment contract. Most of the time they reach agreement in the event that they cannot the members of the union vote to strike they are not put on strike by the union. They also decide if and when to return to work with or without a contract and/or vote on any contract offers from the company. Union employees have a voice in the workplace and non union workers take it or leave it. Unions are no a business they are a non-profit org. that has to report all their expenses to the Labor Department and all of their activities are a matter of public record. What you know about unions is from the movies and Fox snooze.


shirleyberan Dec. 1, 2014 @ 12:04 p.m.

We need unions again. The standard of living here has dropped to third world ridiculous. Not mafia style anymore, I doubt working class organizers have that in mind here. Someone has to develop fair representation and reasonable negotiation or there will not be jobs with a livable wage for the long time it takes to support self to get through long years of college or even a family of 4 survival. We have become apathetic and depleted by the plan of the 1%.


shirleyberan Dec. 1, 2014 @ 4:04 p.m.

Lee Wade - what generation and fear generating stupid are you from? The potential now is great IF No-one listens to you. Idealist labor unions will help and I'd rather be on that side than be afraid of never asking for better. We are mainly forced part-time workers because it saves the rich, okay if we get FUed forever.


shirleyberan Dec. 1, 2014 @ 5:06 p.m.

I think of the culture we created as idiotic. Kids in danger of brain injury, no big deal... How to make a spiritual difference, not important. Losers.


silverlover Dec. 3, 2014 @ 8:01 p.m.

A close relative is a long time member of a union and knows first hand and has seen the corruption in the unions, they do work like the mafia, that is a fact. Contracts and deals affecting members are done behind closed doors for a reason.


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