Walmart Workers Protest on Black Friday

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Friday, Nov 23, 2012  |  Updated 6:05 PM CDT
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Dozens of marchers in front of local Walmarts as part of a nationwide protest.

Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News

Dozens of marchers in front of local Walmarts as part of a nationwide protest.

Walmart workers and their supporters staged Black Friday demonstrations at five North Texas stores.

The workers claim pay and benefits are too low and employees who complain suffer retaliation.

They traveled between stores by bus over a period of several hours Friday morning.

“We’re striking to stop the retaliation that Walmart gives associates. We want to get respect from the company,” employee Jose Mata said.

Two bus-loads met at the Lancaster Walmart on I-35E at Belt Line Road to bring together a gathering of around two-dozen protestors.

“Things were really good when Sam Walton was alive, but since his passing, Walmart has fallen so far and we want to change that,” employee Billy Lyons said.

An SMU Theology professor led the group in prayer and then a handful of workers delivered a letter of grievances to several Walmart managers who were watching in the parking lot.

Faced with a heavy show of police presence, the demonstrators turned and left and did not try to enter the store.

The workers were told there would be no retaliation for their protest if they showed up for their regular work shifts.

“These are the working poor. These are people who don’t have any other support, who don’t get the benefits, who nobody really pays attention to,” said Professor Joerg Rieger with the SMU Perkins School of Theology.

Group supporter Leslie Harris said people who shop at Walmart should demand better treatment for workers. 

“I also think the Walton family could share more. They have obscene wealth as compared to their employees,” she said.

The demonstrations were planned to be walk-outs of employees sponsored by a group called “Organization United for Respect” or “OUR Walmart.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers union claimed on its website that 1000 demonstrations were planned in 100 cities and 46 states.

Prepared statements from Walmart Headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas did not address specific complains from the workers but did say the UFCW claims were grossly exaggerated.

The company said no more than 50 employees participated in the demonstrations nationwide and the number of employees missing a scheduled shift was no more than last year.

The statement from David Tovar, Vice President of Corporate Communications also said:
“It was proven last night – and again today – that the OUR Walmart group doesn’t speak for the 1.3 million Walmart associates. We had our best Black Friday ever and OUR Walmart was unable to recruit more than a small number of associates to participate in these made for TV events. Press reports are now exposing what we have said all along – the large majority of protesters aren’t even Walmart workers.”

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