Caledonia resident Randy Bryce and about 50 other people stood outside the Somers Walmart Thursday night to protest what they say are unfair wages and benefits for employees.
Pro-union groups - including people from Overpass Light Brigade and Our Walmart - held up signs that asked for Walmart workers to be respected, Bryce said.
“We wanted to show our support for the workers who are trying to unionize,” Bryce said. “We want Walmart to respect their workers. We were not trying to keep people out or have people not shop there. We were not there to shut down Walmart. It was to give them some more courage and reassure them that they won’t retaliate against you.”
Bryce said that a number of workers get their hours reduced to a point where they can’t qualify for Walmart’s health insurance, but Walmart officials say they disagree with that assessment. However, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, about 9,136 Walmart employees are eligible to qualify for Badgercare and of those employees that are eligible, 3,103 are on Badgercare – the highest number in the state. But they are also the largest employer in the state.
“A lot of them are on Badgercare and their workers are being attacked by the right,” Bryce said.
Kory Lundberg, spokesperson for Walmart, said they have data that tells a different story.
We have 250,000 associates that have worked for the company for more than 10 years, we promoted 165,000 hourly associates last year, our turnover rate (of 37 percent) is lower than the retail industry average of 44 percent, nearly 75 percent of our store management teams started out in hourly positions, and 20 percent of the people we hired last year were rehires--meaning they worked for Walmart, decided to leave and concluded they were getting a better deal at Walmart so they came back.
Last year alone, we received 5 million job applications, so it’s clear Walmart is someplace people want to work. We also survey our 1.3 million associates every year to gauge their job satisfaction and those numbers have been increasing over the past few years.
Black Friday protests
Bill Simon, CEO of Walmart U.S., also told Fox 6 news Thursday that there were 26 protests last night at Walmart stores, but “many of them did not include any Walmart associates.”
According to the story:
Wal-Mart said it did not experience “the walk-offs that were promised by the UFCW” and less than 50 of its associates participated in the protest nationwide.
Overall, roughly the same number of workers missed their scheduled shift as last year, Simon said.
However, Our Walmart is reporting that 100 stores have joined the strike and protests happening at 1,000 stores.
In Somers, the group had a projector streaming footage of Walmart workers talking about how they were afraid of being retaliated against, about not being able to get enough hours to get healthcare insurance, and the low pay they received. The video image was broadcast up against the side of the building.
The groups also held up light boards that spelled out the words “Respect the Workers,” and stood in front of the store.
They were in the parking lot in front of the building so when a security guard from Walmart told them they couldn’t be there, they moved out of the parking lot to a space between Walmart and Sam's Club.
“Initially they tried to tell us we were hazard, but I asked them, ‘What’s your capacity? Are you keeping track?’ I was told there’s a lot of people in the building,” Bryce said.
As Black Friday shopping commenced Friday, both groups went to the Walmart stores in Milwaukee, Franklin and Somers. This morning about 150 people traveled by bus to those sites, and about 20 were Walmart employees.
“Here’s a group that doesn’t have much and we want them to know the community does support them and it’s OK to stand up and ask for more,” Bryce said.