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About 30 workers at a Pico Rivera Walmart store walked off the job on Thursday in what union officials are calling the first-ever strike against the giant retailer.
The workers, cashiers and others scheduled for the early morning shift at the Washington Blvd. store, participated in a rally later in the morning.
Walmart is not a unionized workplace, but the workers received backing for their action from the United Food and Commercial Workers, which is trying to organize the company.
They are also receiving support from a union trying to represent Walmart's warehouse workers.
Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman downplayed the events, saying that although "a few" associates went outside to attend the rally, the action fell far short of a strike.
Most of the attendees, he said, were labor activists from other parts of the region, and the Pico Rivera store was fully staffed and open for business, he said.
Calling the action a strike, he said, was a publicity stunt.
Elizabeth Brennan, of Warehouse Workers United, said the employees were protesting what they called retaliatory actions by Walmart. They have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board as well.
Workers at Walmart are paid an average of $8.80 per hour, Brennan said, and hours have been cut for many who have protested conditions and benefits.
"Those workers who have spoken up about scheduling, pay and benefits - some have been fired, and others have had their hours cut," Brennan said.
Fogelman said that allegation was "absolutely not true."
"We recognize their right to voice their concerns," Fogleman said.
Under company policy, employees can talk to their supervisors about any issues that come up on the job.
"A better way to raise the concerns would be to make use of our open door policy, which allows our associates to talk to our managers directly without any fear of retailiation," he said.
He also disputed the union's account of how much money associates earn. Full-time employees, he said, earn an average of $12.52 per hour.