Walmart Workers Protest "Poverty Wages" in 15 Cities

Protests are planned on Thursday across the country, including in Los Angeles

By Jason Kandel
|  Friday, Sep 6, 2013  |  Updated 7:19 AM PDT
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Los Angeles police arrested 21 people during a downtown rally intended to draw attention to low wages and allegedly illegal firings at Walmart, protest organizers said.

The LA arrests happened during a series of planned protests nationwide in 15 cities to call for better jobs and higher wages.

The LA march started in Pershing Square and proceeded through downtown LA to a rally at North Grand and West Cesar E. Chavez avenues, the site of a yet-to-be opened Walmart neighborhood store.

LA police 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.

The protests came as Walmart has “failed to meet a Labor Day deadline to reinstate illegally fired and disciplined workers, publicly commit to improve jobs and end the company’s aggressive violations of workers’ rights,” according to a statement by Making Change at Walmart.

“Walmart, we cannot wait any longer for you to do the right thing for American workers,” said Cindy Murray, a Walmart worker who was recently arrested for protesting at Walmart’s Washington, DC offices. “Our jobs should not be at risk when we speak out about improvements that would help our families and Walmart customers.”

Workers say the company made $16 billion in profit last year while workers earn “poverty wages of $8.81 an hour.”

A Congressional report released earlier this year calculates the Walmart workforce reliance on public assistance including food stamps, healthcare and other needs is estimated to utilize $900,000 per year of taxpayer funds at just one of the company’s 4,000 stores.

“As the nation’s largest employer, Walmart and the Walton family should be raising standards, not lowering them. To whom much is given, much is expected,” said Kim Bobo, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice. “Walmart should share its prosperity with workers and publicly commit to paying workers $25,000 a year for full time work. If Walmart workers earned living wages the entire economy would benefit.”

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, said the protests are "a show."

"The vast majority of the protesters don't work for the company or aren't affiliated with the company," he said. "This is not a grass-roots effot. It's a union-led thing with paid protesters and activists."

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