Nine Arrested As Walmart Protest Spills into Streets of Paramount

Workers were demonstrating against what they call poor working conditions at Walmart in Paramount

Nine people, including three striking workers, were arrested Friday after a Walmart employee protest spilled into the streets and police in riot gear had to issue a dispersal order in Paramount.

Protesters walked off their jobs on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Just after 11 a.m., police -- some in riot gear -- issued orders in both Spanish and English for the crowd to get off the street and onto the sidewalk. Police estimated that up to 1,000 people, including Walmart employees and others, participated in the event.

Most of the group complied. But a handful remained seated in the street in an act of civil disobedience. Nine people, including three Walmart employees were arrested, according to the Los Angeles Counety Sheriff's Department.

Capt. Mike Parker said the group that was arrested had planned on getting arrested as part of the protest.

The protest, which took place near 14501 Lakewood Boulevard, was part of a nationwide union-organized protest calling attention to low wages and poor working conditions at the nation's largest retailer.

Walmart workers have been speaking out about “take-home pay so low that many workers' families have to rely on public assistance just to stay afloat,” “understaffing that is keeping workers from receiving sufficient hours and hurts customer service” and safety issues, according to Making Change at Walmart.

“The problem is … [Walmart] has disregarded the well-being of their workers,” said 6-year-employee Greg Fletcher during a protest outside the Duarte store on Friday morning.

Walmart officials said they expected “only a handful of associates” to participate in what it called “UFCW publicity stunts,” according to Steven V. Restivo, Walmart's senior director of community affairs.

“Most of the people UFCW claims at their events aren't even Walmart workers,” Restivo said. “They are union representatives and other union members.”

Restivo said Walmart's “pay and benefits plans are as good as or better than our retail competitors, including those that are unionized.”

“If they weren't, we wouldn't be able to hire people and staff our stores,” Restivo said. “Last year alone, we received 5 million job applications.”

Walmart has 250,000 employees who have worked for the company for more than 10 years, according to Restivo. He said Walmart promoted 165,000 hourly employees last year and that its 37 percent turnover rate is lower than the 44 percent retail industry average.

Nearly 75 percent of Walmart's store management teams started out in hourly positions, and 20 percent of the people it hired last year had previously worked at Walmart, decided to leave, and then returned, according to Restivo.

Walmart has long been a target of organized labor because it is not unionized.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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