Nine people were arrested Friday in protests against retail giant Walmart. According to a Reuters report, the protesters, who told police they intended to be arrested, were taken into custody in Paramount, California as they participated in a national day of action by Walmart workers and their supporters.
Protesters massed outside Walmart stores in 46 states, some skipping their shifts on the busiest sales day of the year to express their dissatisfaction with Walmart policies and labor practices. The nine arrestees refused police orders to clear a street and were peacefully taken into custody.
Representatives of Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S., and the protesters disagree on the size and number of protests against the company on Friday. Representatives of OUR Walmart, an employee rights group connected to the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union (UFCW) said that more than 1000 protests took place in more than 100 cities. The Walton Company, which owns Walmart, as well as Sam’s Club stores, called OUR Walmart’s numbers “greatly exaggerated.”
Shares of Wal-Mart stock rose 1.9 percent to $70.20 on Friday on news that the company was reporting its best Black Friday numbers ever. The company claims that it served more shoppers on Friday than any of its previous Black Friday events, with a reported 10 million register transactions between 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving and midnight on Friday.
Walmart workers claim that the company’s profits come at the expense of workers’ well being. In addition to ordering employees to work on the Thanksgiving holiday, the company keeps the bulk of its workforce on part time hours and pitifully low wages, working with no benefits or paid sick days. One Walmart manager told the Durham, NC Herald-Sun that 80 percent of her store’s employees are on food stamps.
In an effort to head off the protests, Walmart filed an unfair labor practices charge against the UFCW with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Within days, OUR Walmart filed a counter-charge, saying that the company was attempting to intimidate workers into dropping the strike.
The NLRB’s Director of Public Affairs Nancy Cleeland told Reuters that the board had reached a decision on Wednesday, which was then submitted for further legal review.
“We don’t expect to have any announcements or decision today or during the weekend,” she said.