As the protests about wages paid to workers at retail and fast-food giants like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) grow, protesters eventually will run out of press releases about their events and front page news coverage. Even people who think that pay should be raised to $15 an hour will move on to the next pressing item about social justice or living wages. The most important weapon left to those marching in dozens of cities could be social media. The large numbers of “followers” America’s biggest consumer-facing companies have built could be their partial undoing, at least in as far as they want the world to forget about what they pay their lowest level workers.
@McDonalds has more than 1.2 million followers. @Walmart has more than 360,00 followers. Neither is a huge number, but each gives protesters a foot in the door.
One site — @WMTWatch — claims “Walmart Watch seeks to hold Walmart fully accountable for its impact on communities, America’s workforce, the retail sector, the environment and the economy.” A protest group has used Walmart’s name against it. @ChangeWalmart says it is “Challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy, starting with America’s families.” There are other Twitter accounts with similar aims and goals.
McDonald’s has similar trouble as protesters use its brands to create resistance to the fast-food company’s actions. @Anti_McDonalds was established because, “McDonald’s represents the face of corporate greed. It is an imperialistic, monopolistic, corporation that kills millions each year via cancers & heart attacks.” And there is an @AntiMcDonalds, though @mcdprotest may not be taken. Neither, likely, is @mcdwage, and probably a number of others that are related as well.
The wage battle against big retail and big fast food could die out the way Occupy Wall Street did. Or the groups could gain some more time and probably traction. Twitter might be the avenue for that, or perhaps Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB).
If indeed time is short, wage protesters may want to take a page from other protesters around the world, like @twitterprotestnotes.