A protest on behalf of Walmart workers in Ontario, California led to the arrest of up to 10 people Friday, among them Karl Hilgert, who dressed up as Santa Claus for the event, according to The San Bernardino Sun. The protest was one of around 1,500 planned nationwide Friday blasting Walmart for poverty wages, and unfair working hours.
This is the second year protesters have come out in support of Walmart workers on Black Friday with the help of OUR Walmart, a group advocating for Walmart workers. Some protesters at the Walmart in Ontario carried signs reading "25k," which is the yearly wage protesters are requesting workers be paid, according to the Los Angeles Times. OUR Walmart claims that, like Hilgert, protesters in nine cities are practicing civil obedience. Protesters have been arrested in several cities including Chicago and Alexandria, Va., according to CNN.
“I'm going to get arrested for civil disobedience,” Hilgert told the San Bernardino Sun.The retailer company also claims OUR Walmart has "paid off" protesters with $50 gift cards, according to Salon -- though the National Labor Relations Board recently deemed the practice a "non excessive strike benefit" and therefore legal.
NEPA Labor Unions protested in front of Walmart in Stroudsburg, PA. The group had music, signs flyers and chanted. They were removed from the front doors of Walmart, then moved to cover all roads leading into the store.
Walmart Black Friday, Low Pay protest with NAACP NC Rev. Dr. William Barber in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Arrest of protestors at the Walmart Black Friday Protest 2013 in Bellevue, Washington. Police showed up in riot gear for a showdown with the peaceful protesters.
According to a report in Salon, organizers said that 111 people were arrested in eight Black Friday civil disobedience actions against Wal-Mart, and more arrests were anticipated at a protest in San Leandro, California.
“Wal-Mart workers and community supporters, we refuse to live in fear and refuse to accept scraps,” employee Martha Sellers told reporters on a mid-day call. She was joined by arrestee Betty Shove, who said she’d been “harassed” for OUR Walmart activism, and was “standing up for every member that cannot, that will not, because they’re too afraid to lose their job.”
In a statement, Wal-Mart officials said the company "provides wages on the higher end of the retail average with full-time and part-time associates making, on average,close to $12.00 an hour. The majority of our workforce is full-time, and our average full-time hourly pay is $12.81 an hour. We are also proud of the benefits we offer our associates, including affordable health care, performance-based bonuses, education benefits, and access to a 401K."
"Of course, we have entry-level jobs and we always will. The real issue isn't where you start. It's where you can go once you've started." It added that "by year's end, we will have promoted 160,000 associates, including 25,000 this holiday season alone."
Unions and their supporters have been targeting big retailers and restaurant chains to persuade them to boost wages. Critics of the movement say few of the protesters are actual workers -- but supporters counter that's because the workers fear retaliation.
"Walmart workers are part of the protests nationwide – despite Walmart trying to suggest otherwise," a spokeswoman for Making Change at Walmart, an advocacy coalition, said via email.