Black Friday protests expected at Walmarts in Sacramento area, nationwide

Wal-Mart, coping with a sales slump and a hyper-competitive retail landscape, faces another challenge heading into the holiday season: Black Friday demonstrations by workers and union-backed supporters in greater Sacramento and elsewhere.

A group known as the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or Our Walmart, said it plans demonstrations at stores in Roseville, Elk Grove and Folsom. The regional protests will be part of a nationwide demonstration planned at 1,500 Walmarts, the organization said. Workers have been staging protests and walkouts at Walmarts in several states in recent months.

Our Walmart has ties to the United Food and Commercial Workers, which has struggled for years to organize the giant retailer’s workforce. Members of Roseville’s UFCW Local 8 are expected at the Roseville protest.

The demonstrators are pressing for higher wages, following disclosures by company executives that hundreds of thousands of store employees make less than $25,000 a year. On Monday, a group of employees walked off the job at stores in Miami and Minneapolis, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The company’s national media relations director, Randy Hargrove, said he expects “business as usual” on Friday despite the planned protests.

He said the protestors typically represent a minority of workers.

“They don’t speak for our associates, by and large,” he said during a visit this week to the Walmart Supercenter in West Sacramento.

Hargrove said the retailer offers its store employees “opportunities for career advancement.” Some 160,000 store workers get promotions a year, he said.

A group of Wal-Mart employees and supporters staged a march in downtown Sacramento in early September, also as part of a national protest.

On Monday, Wal-Mart’s parent Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said the head of its international division, Doug McMillon, would replace Michael Duke as president and chief executive in February. The move came two weeks after the company reported that sales fell slightly in the third quarter at U.S. stores open at least one year – an important yardstick for retailers. The company lowered its profit forecast.