Mitigating Labor Unrest and Brand Reputation Risk on Social Media

Adriana Munoz Social Media Specialist, KlickHealth

Posted on November 17th 2012

Mitigating Labor Unrest and Brand Reputation Risk on Social Media

By Darren Enta | @DE_Brandprotect


walmart black fridayOk, let’s pretend you are Walmart. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and you’re revving up the marketing machine to start promoting the you-know-what out of Black Friday.  You’re ready to go, so much so that you’ve decided that you’re going to kick off Black Friday at 8pm Thursday. You think abiding by the “Friday” portion of the holiday’s name is for less important retailers and ugh, department stores. This year Walmart is going to redefine Black “Friday” to be a five day affair, starting Thursday and carrying on throughout Monday, Tuesday will be spared this year to hold off rolling out “Tablet Tuesday” in 2013. It’s time to put your feet up on your desk have your assistant pour you a drink and think about the extra number of staff you’ll have to bring in to count all the Scrooge McDuck sized surplus bags of money. Just as you get comfy someone from the HR department comes bursting into this hypothetical situation, looking frantic and dishevelled. You calmly turn to this person and ask “Phil, why are you harshing my Black Friday vibe right now? We’re getting ready to do the biggest numbers of the year.” “Phil” timidly hands you a hand written note on a napkin which simply reads: “I read on Facebook that we may not have any employees working.” Now “Hotshot, What do you do?” – insert Dennis Hopper imitation

Now, while I clearly took some dramatic liberties with the above described scenario, at some point something somewhat similar (how similar is up to the reader) happened at Walmart corporate offices this year. In what is quickly becoming the most important weekend on the retail calendar Walmart employees are threatening to rain on the parade by attempting to organize a “nationwide strike” against Walmart. What’s all the more intriguing is that Walmart employees are not represented by a union. This call to action is for the most part being carried out organically on Social Media. There are multiple groups organizing pages on Facebook, a Facebook app and of course the now obligatory hashtag “#walmartstrikers”.

This Social Media campaign seems to have covered a few bases when it comes to a planned work action. Firstly it covers the inherent first challenge, making sure that there are other likeminded employees who agree about conditions not being ideal and it also connects those employees who share that opinion. After collecting these groups together it facilitates organization of any planned actions by encouraging and fostering support as well as increasing the legitimacy of the issue. Secondly it generates public awareness, something which can be invaluable at a negotiating table as the NHL Players Association would be good to take note of.

For the record Walmart doesn’t seem to be to be too concerned. Spokesman Steven Restivo says that they don’t expect the strikes planned for Black Friday to “have any impact on our business”. The existence of these groups may not be any indication as to the scope or size of these “planned actions” which may be what Walmart and Restivo are counting on.

It’s still unclear at this time what effect if any this will actually have on Walmart’s sales figures for the weekend, but when it comes to mitigating the risk of an integral campaign like Walmart’s “Black Friday” one would hope they would be at the least monitoring their brand reputation. If you read a post about an impending work action at a retailer you were used to shopping at would it change your impression of the company? Walmart sure hopes not.  


What do you think should be Walmart's next move? Do you think the strike will have much impact on their reputation? 




Adriana Munoz

Social Media Specialist, KlickHealth

Adriana is a Social Media Specialist at KlickHealth. She assists in the developing, monitoring, coordination and execution of the social media campaigns of KlickHealth's pharma clients. Her training in Marketing and Social Media allow her to keep in touch of internet trends and see them through a marketers eye. She also blogs about the dangers and threats Social Media can have on a company's online reputation and image. Adriana graduated from York University with a BAS - Honours Marketing and attended Seneca college obtaining an ROA in Computer Graphic Design & Layout.

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Barry Graham
Posted on November 18th 2012 at 5:39AM

I think you hit the nail on the head in your headline in your e-mail summary.  They are not represented by a union, and thus this is a call by a union that doesn't represent WalMart nor most of its employees, so the chances of anything happening are nil - maybe one or two employees outside each store - both of whom will be looking for a new job the next day.  The union that doesn't represent WalMart thrives on stirring up the tiny minority of disgruntlted employees that don't understand the company they work for.  I've seen this happen in another company that I know well, with no noticeable effect.

People forget just what WalMart has does done.  In addition to being the world's largest employer they have also brought down prices to a level that would not have been seen otherwise.  They have also helped companies like the one I work for, by buying our equipment and services.

These are my private views and not representative of the company I work for, and I have no affilation with WalMart.

Darren Enta
Posted on November 19th 2012 at 2:51PM

Hi Barry,

Wow nice all-encompassing disclaimer there at the end of your comment ;)

I would estimate that a majority of the blogs I write come from a personal views standpoint and this Walmart one is no different. 

I’m sure just like most employers Walmart does have some commendable employee relation stories and then there will always be the other sides take on that relationship. I’ve seen labor disputes first hand where employees were in fact represented by unions and have been well within their legal rights to stage demonstrations in accordance to their collective bargaining rights (albeit in Canada) those had a different feel than this Walmart situation.

What I found interesting was that since Walmart staff are not represented by a union there seems to be a newfound reliance leveraging Social Media to bolster this groups numbers, and seems to have taken on a more crucial role than in the past. It could be an effective means for other organizations to keep their members informed without much cost or lots of effort.

It will be interesting to see how things play out this week, but I’m leaning more towards your assessment, which is that it may result in no news, which would be a win for Walmart in my mind.

Thanks for the comment,