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Walmart Employee Protest

Walmart Employee Protest

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles police today arrested 21 people during a  downtown rally intended to draw attention to low wages and allegedly illegal  firings at Walmart, protest organizers said.

Hundreds of workers, union members and supporters called for Walmart,  the country's largest employer, to reinstate workers, raise wages and improve  working conditions.

The protest started at Pershing Square, filing past Walmart's downtown  office and City Hall before ending at Cesar Chavez Avenue and Broadway,  according to Los Angeles Police Department watch commander Chris Werner.

Werner could not immediately confirm the exact number of arrests, but  said those arrested -- who included clergy members -- were part of a planned  act of civil disobedience.

Chinatown was chosen in part because it is the site of a proposed  Walmart Neighborhood Market that has drawn spirited opposition and a lawsuit by  residents.

Since June, according to rally organizers, Walmart illegally has  disciplined almost 80 workers, firing 20. More than 100 charges of unfair labor  practice have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board, they said.

``Working at Walmart is like this: You get a check for $732, rent is  $700, you put $20 in the gas tank and then you have $12 left over for food,''  said Martha Sellers, a cashier at the Paramount Walmart for the past 10 years.  ``No one should have to live this way. I work for the largest retailer in the  world and they make billions of dollars. Walmart can afford to give us full- time hours so that we can pay our bills and pay our rent, put gas in the tank  and feed our families.''

Sellers and others say the company retaliates against those who speak  out against working conditions and help organize strikes.

Walmart executives could not immediately be reached for comment, but  their website offers one defense of employee pay.

``About 75 percent of our store management teams started as hourly  associates, and they earn between $50,000 and $170,000 a year -- similar to  what firefighters, accountants and even doctors make. Every year, Walmart  promotes about 160,000 people to jobs with more responsibility and higher  pay.''

 

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