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At Wal-Mart and elsewhere, jobs provide few hours, little stability

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People protest against Wal-Mart on Black Friday, Nov 23, 2012, in Secaucus, N.J. Wal-Mart employees and union supporters are taking part in today's nationwide demonstration for better pay and benefits. A union-backed group called OUR Walmart, which includes former and current workers, was staging the demonstrations and walkouts at hundreds of stores on Black Friday, the day when retailers traditionally turn a profit for the year.

Mel Evans/AP

Shoppers heading to Wal-Mart on Black Friday in search of deals will likely be met by protesting workers. The protestors, who are organized by the union-supported group OUR Walmart, are asking the nation’s largest private-sector employer for dependable schedules and full-time jobs for those who want them.

It’s a request that is sure to resonate across the retail industry. Although retail is a relative bright spot in the labor market with a growing number of jobs, the Center for Public Integrity recently showed that the positions often offer less than full-time hours and unpredictable schedules, which means less stability and smaller paychecks than in the past.
 
In some cases, workers are hired for “call-in” shifts, which require them to call their stores a couple of hours before they are scheduled to work to see if they are needed. This flexibility has been a boon to employers, who cut labor costs by calling in workers on busy days, like Black Friday, and keeping them off the payroll when business is slow. But for workers, is has meant the end of a dependable weekly paycheck.