PORTLAND, Ore. — Walmart workers and supporters marched in protest at a number of stores nationwide Thursday and Friday, blasting the wages, benefits, and treatment of employees of the world’s largest retailer.
The efforts seemed to do little to keep shoppers away though. Walmart said it was its best Black Friday ever.
In Paramount, Calif., authorities arrested a small group of protesters Friday outside a Walmart. Elizabeth Brennan of Warehouse Workers United said nine people, including three Walmart employees, were arrested shortly after noon for blocking the street outside the store in Paramount. At one point, however, more than 1,000 people blocked traffic outside the store, Sheriff’s Captain Mike Parker told KNBC-TV.
In Lakewood, Colo., shoppers hesitated as they passed dozens of protesters outside a Walmart 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,’’ 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. Walmart Stores Inc. 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 walkouts occurred last week at stores but were scheduled to culminate on one of the year’s busiest shopping days. The size and impact of the protests varied greatly by site. OUR Walmart, made up of current and former Walmart employees, was formed in 2010 to press the company for better working conditions. Walmart has criticized the group for relying largely on other unions and non-employees to make up the ranks protesting outside its stores.
The retailer also 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.
Walmart estimated that fewer than 50 associates participated in Thursday and Friday’s protests nationwide. Company spokesman Dan Fogleman said that the number of associates who missed their shifts during the two days of events is 60 percent lower than last year.