Walmart workers protest wages, benefits on Black Friday

Walmart workers protest wages, benefits on Black Friday

Walmart workers protest wages, benefits on Black Friday

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by CBS News

KMOV.com

Posted on November 23, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Walmart workers were spotted protesting at dozens of stores across the country Friday morning as part of a nationwide walk-out during one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

More than a 100 protesters in lime green shirts marched outside the Walmart in Lakewood, Colo., on Black Friday to demand higher wages and better benefits.

CBS Los Angeles affiliate KCAL-TV reports a handful of people left the Walmart in Duarte, Calif., early Friday morning to hand out flyers and hold signs in support of the workers. There were also reports of protests in North Carolina, Texas, Minnesota, Florida, Kentucky and other states.

"I did it because I support our Walmart and I don't like the way they treat their associates here," worker Richard Reynoso told KCAL-TV's Art Barron. "And I believe with our help, we could be able to change that."

For the most part, shoppers appeared undeterred by the protests. In Lakewood, Colorado residents went in and out of the Walmart without incident.

The strike was organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and a group called OUR Walmart, which said it was protesting unfair labor practices and demanding better pay for employees. The group had anticipated 1,000 protests across the country.

Some demonstrations began Thursday night, when stores opened their doors early for Black Friday deals. Walmart U.S Chief Executive Bill Simon claimed in a statement that not nearly as many employees walked out as the union had expected.

"Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates," he said.

"We estimate that less than 50 associates participated in the protest nationwide. In fact, this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year," Simon said.

Walmart associates are not unionized, so the chain does not officially recognize the UFCW. Company executives defended their treatment of employees.

"Walmart's pay and benefits plans are as good as or better than our retail competitors, including those that are unionized," Steven V. Restivo, Senior Director of Community Affairs, told KCAL-TV.

Of the company's 2.2 million workers, Restivo said Walmart has 250,000 employees who have worked for the company for more than ten years. In 2011, the company promoted 165,000 hourly employees, KCAL-TV reports.

OUR Walmart, however, has said employee income -- often close to minimum wage -- is barely enough to live on, and the group claims it has received complaints of retaliation from the employers for speaking out.

"Unfair labor is working full time and living in poverty," Colby Harris, a Walmart associate from Lancaster Texas, said in a UFCW press release. "Unfair labor is seeing your health care premiums skyrocket year after year. Unfair labor is being denied the hours needed to support your family. Unfair labor is being punished for exercising your freedom of speech and association."

Walmart claimed Friday had been the retail giant's best Black Friday ever sales wise.

Shoppers were expected to spend more than $11 billion on Black Friday, considered the first day of the holiday shopping season. Retailers expect to make up to 10 percent of their all-important holiday profits this weekend.

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