NLRB still evaluating Walmart complaint against protesters, as retailer calls Black Friday a success

Nov. 23: Protesters demonstrate outside a Walmart store in Chicago.

Nov. 23: Protesters demonstrate outside a Walmart store in Chicago.  (Reuters)

The National Labor Relations Board said Friday that due to the 'complex' legal issue,  it will issue a ruling next week on Walmart's request for an injunction against union-backed worker protests at store locations on Thanksgiving night and Black Friday. 

But while the NLRB considers the request, the world's largest retailer called this year's Black Friday a success even though union-backed protests broke out at some locations over worker conditions and wages. 

Dave Tovar, a company spokesman, said the discounter learned from shoppers that they want to start shopping right after Thanksgiving dinner. Then they want time to sleep before they wake up and head back to the stores.

The move appeared to be paying off. Walmart said in a statement Friday that stores saw larger crowds then last year. The company also downplayed the number of protests and called it a "union-funded publicity stunt."

"Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates," the store said in a statement. It estimated that less than 50 associates participated in the protests.

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The exact number of associates in the protests at the stores is difficult to independently verify.

A union-backed group called OUR Walmart, which is comprised of former and current workers, used Black Friday as a chance to stage demonstrations and walkouts at hundreds of stores nationwide to bring attention to what they consider unfair wages and job conditions at the world’s largest retailer.

Walmart has been one of the biggest targets of protests against holiday hours. Many of the company's stores are open 24 hours, but the company was offering early bird specials that once were reserved for Black Friday at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving instead.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which helped organize the protests, said on its website that the protests are aimed at the company’s attempts to silence workers who speak out for better jobs.

Employees like Josue Mata, 28, an immigrant from Mexico who is divorced and a father of four, voiced his dissatisfaction with the new hours. He told, a Dallas station, that he makes $8.70 an hour cleaning floors.

"The holiday is time you need to spend with your family," he said, while taking part in a small protest near Fort Worth. "You have 365 other days to have a sale. It's really pointless. It's all about money."

The protests appeared to be small and peaceful. One protester was arrested at a Portland, Ore., location, but police did not give further details, reported.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that about two dozen union protesters formed a picket-line near an Atlanta store and there was an encounter with an SUV driver who apparently nudged several protesters.

The protesters at the Atlanta location were distributing flyers demanding an increase in pay to $13 per hour, better health care and freedom to unionize without retaliation, the report said.

Some protesters at a Maryland location held signs that read 'No justice, no peace' and 'Respect Our Associates.' The amount of protesters who actually still work at these locations depended upon who you asked. In some cases, protest organizers said there were dozens of associates, but store managers put the number at zero.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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Edmund DeMarche is a news editor for Follow him on Twitter @EDeMarche.