100 arrested in Walmart protests, union says

Rallies calling for higher pay land some demonstrators in police custody

Police in 11 cities across the United States arrested at least 100 people protesting outside Walmart stores Thursday, organizers said. The demonstrators were calling for higher wages and the reinstatement of workers fired after participating in a June strike against the company.

Walmart is the United States' largest private employer, with 1.3 million workers in the country.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which helped organize the demonstrations but does not negotiate for Walmart workers, said in a news release that 100 protesters were arrested, and that workers would strike on Black Friday -- the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, when U.S. retailers traditionally offer large discounts -- in November.

The protesters say Walmart workers cannot afford to live on their pay, and want them to receive at least $25,000 a year.

Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman said most of the demonstrators do not work for the company. He called the protests a "show" conducted by unions that supported the action.

Police in Los Angeles arrested 21 protesters, nine of whom are current Walmart employees, Al Jazeera’s Jennifer London reported. Another nine were arrested in Sacramento, Calif., according to the Sacramento Bee newspaper.

Police arrested 11 protesters in Dallas, Texas, according to the local NBC affiliate there.

Many of the protesters were put in handcuffs after sitting or standing in intersections and refusing police demands that they move.

In New York City, three demonstrators who were trying to deliver a petition to a Walmart board member’s office were arrested after they refused police orders to move from the entrance of a building, authorities said. They face charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing, according to police.

Evan Yeats, a spokesman for the UFCW, told Al Jazeera that 15 people had been arrested at a rally in Renton, Wash., near Seattle.

Late-breaking reports were coming in from Chicago of arrests at a demonstration there, the spokesman added.

Several people were arrested at a protest in Hyattsville, Md., outside Washington D.C., a local NBC station reported

It was not clear how many people participated in the demonstrations Thursday, but they were billed by the UFCW and Organization United for Respect at Walmart, another organizer, as being the largest protests since Black Friday of 2012.

“This is just like what this union group has been doing on and off since last year -- it's just a show and, with very few exceptions, the cast members don't work at Walmart nor are they affiliated with the company in any way,” Fogleman told Al Jazeera’s John Terrett.

Walmart employees do not have their own union. The UFCW helped organize the protests held Thursday, and coordinates financial assisance for workers who lose their jobs after protesting. Walmart says it does not retaliate against workers for protesting, but for unrelated factors such as poor attendance.

Al Jazeera

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