Protests greet shoppers at Wal-Marts nationwide

Associated Press Modified: November 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm •  Published: November 23, 2012
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Wal-Mart workers and supporters marched in protest at stores nationwide Thursday and Friday, blasting the wages, benefits and treatment of employees at the world's largest retailer.

The efforts seemed to do little to keep shoppers away though — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it was its best Black Friday ever.

In Paramount, Calif., authorities arrested nine people, including three Wal-Mart employees, for blocking a busy street outside a store there. Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker said they were cited and released on misdemeanor charges.

At its height, authorities said, the Paramount protest drew about 1,000 people.

"A lot more people showed up than I anticipated, but that just shows you the kind of support we have," said Wal-Mart employee Carlton Smith, who added he was one of 19 store employees taking part. "We have a common interest in making this great company better."

Several hundred demonstrators marched into the street shortly before noon, Parker said, but almost all followed deputies' orders to return to the sidewalk. He said the nine taken into custody told deputies beforehand they planned to be arrested and didn't offer any resistance.

In Lakewood, Colo., shoppers hesitated as they passed dozens of protesters outside a Wal-Mart but entered without incident. Some protesters held signs playing off of the retailing giant's corporate slogan, "Live better," accusing the company of corporate greed and underpaying its workers.

"This is the way you get a fair shake. You've got to fight for it. You've always had to," said protester Charlie May, of the Industrial Workers of the World labor organization.

A union-backed group called OUR Walmart has said that it is holding an estimated 1,000 protests in 46 states. The exact number is unclear. Wal-Mart has refuted that estimate, saying the figure is grossly exaggerated and that the protests involved few of its own employees.

A number of demonstrations and walk-outs occurred last week at stores but were scheduled to culminate on one of the year's busiest shopping days.

OUR Walmart, made up of current and former Wal-Mart employees, was formed in 2010 to press the company for better working conditions.

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