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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The retailer filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board last week against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The company said that the demonstrations organized by OUR Walmart threatened to disrupt its business and intimidate customers and associates.

Wal-Mart said roughly 50 employees participated in the events Thursday and a "few dozen" took part Friday. Company spokesman Dan Fogleman said the number of associates who missed their shifts during the two days of events was 60 percent lower than last year.

"It was proven last night — and again today — that the OUR Walmart group doesn't speak for the 1.3 million Wal-Mart associates," the company said in a statement.

The union group estimated that "hundreds" of employees participated nationwide.

Victoria Martinez, 29, marched in front of the store in Paramount on Black Friday. The Wal-Mart photo department employee worked her shift on Thanksgiving but skipped work Friday to "speak out." She said the company shows a lack of respect for employees, noting that she faced retaliation by local managers after speaking out about problems during an open discussion sponsored by the head office.

"I believe that when I started at this company, it was great," said Martinez, who has worked for Wal-Mart for seven years. "They've taken away everything that is great."

Wal-Mart for many years has faced intense scrutiny over its wage and benefit policies and treatment of its workers. Fogleman says that the company provides some of the best jobs in the retail industry and that its wages and benefits typically meet or exceed those of competitors. The retailer maintains that it has many long-term employees and that its turnover rate is below the industry average.

The company, based in Bentonville, Ark., operates 10,400 stores in 27 countries.

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Associated Press writers Robert Jablon in Los Angeles, John Rogers in Paramount, Calif., and Peter Banda in Lakewood, Colo., contributed to this report.