APPLE VALLEY, Minn - On a day that's considered to be the "Super Bowl" of shopping, some Walmart workers warn they'll be walking off the job, including employees in Minnesota.
More than 1,000 protests are planned across the country, from Milwaukee to Chicago and in St. Paul, at the Walmart at 1450 University Avenue in St. Paul, Friday at 11 a.m.
Gabe Teneyuque, 30, an Apple Valley Walmart employee, says he will be among the protesters, as part of the group OUR Walmart, a national organization formed by frustrated workers, and says the planned walk-off isn't about working on Thanksgiving night, but how employees are treated all year long.
He says he took a job in the electronics department last year to help support his parents, but working conditions he encountered were "eye opening." He says many workers are afraid to speak out about their low wages, short hours, and changing schedules.
"Everyone goes there because the prices are good, but it's got to come from somewhere and from what I have seen it's not coming from the top," said Teneyuque.
Teneyuque says he earns $9.00 an hour part time, and has been unable to secure a full time position with benefits, and many of his co-workers are in the same situation. This Black Friday, he hopes shoppers will encourage Walmart to improve conditions.
"Just by increasing wages and making health care affordable, Walmart can turn this country around, they have that power, to raise up the poverty level," said Teneyuque. "Something we can live on and be comfortable, not be on food stamps, not having to worry about paying bills and feeding family."
In a statement, Walmart says its' pay and benefit plans are as good or better than retail competitors, including those unionized, and shoppers won't notice any disruptions when doors open at 8 p.m., or at their big electronics event at 10 p.m., and Friday morning kickoff at 5 a.m.
"Black Friday for us is the Superbowl of retail , we have a great plan in place and we don't feel like there is any other retailer set up to win like Walmart," said Sarah Spencer, a Walmart spokesperson offering media an early Black Friday preview at the company's Brooklyn Center store.
"They are nervous and they should be, it's time," said Bernie Hesse, an organizer with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1189, the union supporting the Walmart workers in their protests.
"What I would say to folks is, economic choices are moral choices. When you shop not only do you want to get value, but also think about the worker in the store and the value they have," said Hesse.
Walmart filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that UFCW's involvement in the picketing is illegal.
In an email to KARE 11, Walmart said, "We recognize that not everyone is going to find what they are looking for in their job - that's true of any workplace. The reality is that there are only a handful of associates, at a handful of stores scattered across the country that are participating in these UFCW made for TV events. Most of the numbers of people the UFCW claims at their events aren't even Walmart workers. They are union representatives and other union members. The overwhelming majority of our 1.3 million associates are excited about Black Friday and are ready to serve our customers."
Teneyuque isn't sure what will happen when he walks off the job Friday, but says it's worth the risk.
"The way I see it if a company like Walmart wants you gone, they will find a way, and that is what worries me, but I see the end gain, I see the future and what it can be," he said.
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