Activists demonstrate for ‘living wage’ outside Maine Walmarts on Black Friday

ELLSWORTH — About 25 demonstrators sang an adaptation of the song “John Brown’s Body” in unison six or seven times as they made small purchases at the local Walmart register on Friday morning.

“We have come to Ellsworth Walmart to support the workers here, we believe you should get paid a living wage and that is clear,” the activists sang as a police officer and several managers looked on.

The demonstrators explained later that they had to make the purchases, such as nail polish, cat food and pencils, in order to avoid getting kicked out of the store. No one was arrested as a result of the demonstration, according to Ellsworth police.

Shoppers for the most part seemed to ignore the demonstrators and continue shopping.

After the singing, the activists congregated across Myrick Street where they continued their protest while holding up signs with phrases such as “Wal-Mart’s greed is gross” and “Wal-Mart: Respect our community.”

Some drivers coming out of both Walmart and Home Depot showed their support by honking at the protesters.

Activists and union members in at least three locations in Maine joined thousands of others across the country in protest of what the picketers call the “poverty wages” that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pays its sales associates. They say workers should be paid a minimum of $25,000 a year.

“The greed from these big corporations is hurting everybody,” said Loren Snow, a demonstrator who said he worked at a Walmart store for five months in 2009 before he was laid off. He said he was paid $7.50 an hour, or minimum wage.

While no arrests were reported in Maine, at least 20 protesters were charged at demonstrations elsewhere, according to cnnmoney.com. The online news site reported 10 people being arrested on misdemeanor charges Friday near a Walmart in Ontario, Calif., after they moved into an intersection and failed to disperse. Another 10 protesters were issued citations for blocking a roadway near a Walmart in Chicago.

At the Walmart in Auburn, seven people passed out about 230 fliers with information about workers’ wages to shoppers.

“My understanding is that they make between $17 billion and $23 billion in profits,” said picketer Joe Mailey of the company. “To hear that any of their workers have to seek out any kind of public assistance is just mind boggling to say the least.”

In a press release issued this week, activists said they were motivated by a presentation made at a conference in October by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s top executive, Bill Simmon, who said that at least 475,000 of the retailer’s full-time, hourly associates make at least $25,000 a year. Many have pointed out that that leaves 525,000 workers making less than that sum a year.

But Walmart countered that the average hourly wage for a full-time sales associate is $12.83, and the average wage for all associates, including part-timers, is $11.83, according to Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg.

“That wage compares very favorably with any of our competitors in the retail industry,” he said on Wednesday.

He added, “It’s not really about where you start, but about the opportunities you have once you get in.”

On its website, the company states: “About 75 percent of our store management teams started as hourly associates, and they earn between $50,000 and $170,000 a year.”

Activists also said this week that they were emboldened by a finding by the National Labor Relations Board that Wal-Mart fired and disciplined employees illegally for their involvement in last year’s Black Friday protest.

Wal-Mart has denied those accusations. Lundberg called the NLRB’s action a “procedural step.”

“We will continue to work with the NLRB and we look forward to doing so,” he said.

OUR Wal-Mart, an organization that advocates for the rights of Wal-Mart workers, set up a website before Friday’s protests where associates could log in and request Black Friday events at their stores. On Friday morning, Presque Isle, Waterville and Scarborough were marked as places where associates had requested those events.

Organizers from worker unions in Maine have been in regular contact with the national group, though it is not officially organizing the activities here. In Maine, the local unions scheduled events in Scarborough, Auburn, Augusta and Ellsworth.

A similar event was held outside the Ellsworth Walmart last year, which drew about 15 participants. Sarah Bigney, a mobilizer at Maine’s American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizers, said she thinks momentum for this cause will only grow and that more demonstrations may take place even before next year’s Black Friday.

Nell Gluckman/Bangor Daily News

Picketers demonstrated for higher wages for workers outside Walmart on Black Friday. They held up signs that read, "Walmart's greed is gross. Pay your workers" and "Walmart: Respect our community."

Nell Gluckman/Bangor Daily News

Picketers held up signs and sang songs outside Walmart on Black Friday. "Big box stores like this should be paying employees a decent, livable wage," said Loren Snow, a demonstrator.

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JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Unethical Treatment of those Disabled, this is just a few...

There is more than wages with the store called Wal-Mart....

Brady v. Wal-Mart

What happened: A man named Patrick Brady, a licensed pharmacist with the disability Cerebral Palsy applied to Wal-Mart after leaving his previous job at Centereach. After 3 days of being a pharmacist at Wal-Mart, the managers at Wal-Mart thought that Brady was too incompetent for the job and transferred him to pushing the carts. Brady sued and won 7.2 million dollars.

A solution that could save Wal-Mart from lawsuits and Wal-Mart's disabled employee's from Wal-Mart's ignorance with how to handle and work with them could be to hire Human Resource Management employees who research and find ways to accommodate the disabled. In this situation the solution was to not move Patrick Brady from his position at all. As long as he is doing his job properly and there are no formal complaints from customers than there is no reason to move Brady.

Allen v. Wal-Mart
What happened: Glenda Allen, a loyal employee to the Wal-Mart Corporation, was shot one day at work when the store was robbed. After being in intensive care and after much physical therapy she returned was able to walk although it was limited. Once she was confident enough to move around on her own and without any pain, she tried to return to Wal-Mart, believing she still had a position waiting for her. Unfortunately, that was no the case. In fact, they had immediately replaced her, sparing her no health care or sympathy in the matter. They believed that she was too incompetent to handle the job and refused to give her her job back or another job.

Gallo v. Wal-Mart
David Gallo worked as an employee for Wal-Mart for several years. His disability is atrial fibrillation which causes a short of breath and difficulty walking. He needed to park close so he did not strain himself. So he parked in the handicap parking spaces closest to the Wal-Mart. After doing this for quite some time and never having a complaint before, a new manager come into Wal-Mart. This new manager comes and bans David Gallo from parking in the handicap parking spots and spaces anywhere near the store. The manager’s defense, although the rest of the employees and other management knew about Gallo’s condition, said that these spots were made for customers.

Solution: Provide handicap parking for employees only. Designate a safe and easy accessible area for these employees to access their vehicles and the store as well.

Employee vs. Walmart

Walmart was charged with a failure to reasonably accommodate an employee who had cancer surgery. He submitted a request and asked not to be required to cover for a 20 minute break in the shipping department because of his weakness in his shoulder. Even though the employee had worked at the company for 12 years, his request was denied and he was terminated.

Solution: Solution for Walmart that could prevent these law suits would be to let him cover some other department that does not require hard labor other than the shipping department.

EEOC vs. Walmart

Case: Employee Rehberg was refused reasonable accommodation by Walmart for her inability to stand for long periods of time. Since she was failed to be given a simple accommodation Walmart found that she was unable to properly do her job so they discharged her. This marks EEOC's 16th court action against Walmart for violating the ADA laws.

Solution: For the EEOC they have required Walmart to go though training to prevent further violations of EEOC laws and especially the ADA laws. Rehberg did win and she was given compensation for the actions taken by Walmart.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Brady v. Wal-Mart If the man

Brady v. Wal-Mart

If the man is truly incompetent, then 7.2 million dollars is could be lower than paying for the man's mistakes.

Given 2.1 million employees, a hand full of lost law suites is statistically insignificant to draw broad conclusion about the company.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

4 damn good reasons not to shop ...Union in China OK, but not US

1. Skimping on employee paychecks;
Notoriously known for its poor wages, many of its workers often rely on food stamps and other government aid programs just to fulfill their basic needs.

According to a report released by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, every Walmart center costs taxpayers close to $1.3 million in public benefits on average simply because the company's low wages forces their employees to rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

"When low wages leave Walmart workers unable to afford the necessities of life, taxpayers pick up the tab," the report says.

Paired with poor working conditions, the retail giant's low wages also led to numerous worker strikes at stores around the nation that started on Black Friday last year, including 10 police arrests outside a retailer in Washington, D.C. a few days ago.

"I'm not a screw-off employee by any means, and it's upsetting to me that I can't even support myself at 45 years old," said Barbara Gertz, a Walmart worker from Commerce City, Colorado.

2. Poor working conditions all around;
Gawker published an article last month that included some pretty frightening workplace stories from anonymous Walmart employees that included reduced working hours resulting in having to go hungry, unchecked sexual harassment, and denied sick leave.

Instead of addressing these complaints, Walmart responded by asking their employees to send in happier stories instead.

"I was once talking about a family reunion I had attended and one manager went into full sprint up to me and demanded to know why I had said the word 'union.' When I told her 'I said REUNION, not union' she didn't believe me and decided to tear me down right there on the sales floor," one employee wrote.

Conditions abroad, however, don't fare much better either.

After a factory collapse in Bangladesh, labor advocates pressured Walmart and other American businesses to improve labor and working conditions abroad. However, the plan that Walmart and associates developed was met with stern criticism from labor activists.

While committing $42 million to pay for worker safety, inspections and an anonymous hot-line for workers to report concerns, the plan lacked legally binding commitments to pay for those improvements.

Multiple labor rights groups, including the Worker Rights Consortium and the Clean Clothes Campaign, criticized the plan and said the company was "unwilling to commit to a program under which they actually have to keep the promises they make to workers and accept financial responsibility for ensuring that their factories are made safe."

3. Still opposed to the "living wage" bill;
Walmart's strong opposition to the controversial "living wage" bill certainly didn't paint a pretty picture of the retail giant.

The living wage law would require Walmart and other non-unionized retailers to pay their workers in Washington D.C. at least $12.50 an hour: 150% of the local minimum wage. Walmart, however, responded by threatening to pull out of plans to build at least three stores in the District should the bill become law.

In a preemptive op-ed, Walmart executive Alex Barron described the D.C. Council's pending decision on the bill as one that "discriminates against business and threatens to undo all that we have accomplished together."

The District, however, chose to stand up to the company's unethical labor practices. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the bill will be send to Mayor Vincent C. Gray by Friday for his signature or veto.

Anti-union stance;

Although the majority of Walmart employees in countries such as "CHINA" are members of unions, Walmart's anti-union stance within the U.S. constantly makes headlines every year.

Their official statement reads, "At Walmart, we respect the individual rights of our associates and encourage them to express their ideas, comments and concerns. Because we believe in maintaining an environment of open communications, we do not believe there is a need for third-party representation."

According to a Human Rights Watch report in 2007, Walmart continues to take advantage of holes in U.S. labor law to suppress any attempts at unionization from bombarding workers with messages of "disastrous results" that could occur if they organize to closing an entire store because employees decided to unionize.

Despite the waves of Walmart workers attempts to organize, the company still manages to prevail and maintain its anti-union stance.

MARK GRAVE's picture

1. Skimping on employee

1. Skimping on employee paychecks; we need to work on reducing the welfare rolls.
2. Poor working conditions all around; Yet people still work there and scramble to fill job openings.
3. Still opposed to the "living wage" bill; “living wage” is an ambiguous term. Hey, Hey, don’t like the pay, then go away. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with an anti-union stance. It is Walmart’s prerogative. Low-prices come at a cost.

Walmart low prices are good for our personal finances.

Hey, Hey, don’t like the wage go away..

MARK GRAVE's picture

Hey, Hey, if you don't like

Hey, Hey, if you don't like the pay gather your belongings and go way.
Hey, Hey, if you don't like the pay gather your belongings and go way.
Hey, Hey, if you don't like the pay gather your belongings and go way.
Hey, Hey, if you don't like the pay gather your belongings and go way.
Hey, Hey, if you don't like the pay gather your belongings and go way.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Minimum wage laws.

If you apply for a job at Wal-Mart, or anywhere for that matter, and the starting wage is as low as the state minimum wage don't start bitching that it's not enough for you to live on. You walked into to it with your eyes wide open.
Having worked my way up from a stock boy, fresh out of the Navy, to store manager for large retail chain stores then to my own businesses over a 45 year period I can say I've seen it all.
Usually, but not always, it's the ones who came to work reeking of booze from the night before, cigarette smoke, dressed in dirty clothes and hair that was combed
with a branch who were the ones that complain about the low pay.
Those who came to work dressed and groomed appropriately, had at least a high school education, had a good work ethic and an "I can do it attitude" soon found themselves making more money.
In a nutshell, if your looking for a raise, picketing won't get it for you.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Well said Al.

Well said Al.

Robert McQueeney's picture

Have any of these protestors done the math?

“My understanding is that they make between $17 billion and $23 billion in profits,” And worldwide, they have 2.1 million employees.

For simple math, let's say they make 21 billion in profits, divide that by 2.1 million employees, that's about $10,000.00 per employee per year. But remember that one third of that will be the tax overburden that all employers have to pay on their employees (Worker's comp, unemployment,payroll tax, etc...) So we end up with about $6,600.00 per employee, and if you divide that by 2000 work hours in a year, you end up with a raise of about $3.30 an hour. And that small wage will completely wipe out the profit that one of the largest employers in the world should be making.

Something will have to give. Either Walmart will have to raise their prices, or the employee force will have to be cut, and what of all of those people who got the $3.30 wage increase? Are any of them willing to work any harder for the extra wage increase?

The thing that many people do not realize, is that Walmart is immensely huge, over 2 million employees. They are entitled, as is any company on this planet, to make a profit off their workers. They do not make an exorbitant profit on their workers, it's just the scale of such a huge company, it all adds up.

MARK GRAVE's picture

All good points Robert!

All good points Robert!

Gerry Thompson's picture

I

avoid Walmart. The owners could easily raise their rate of pay and not raise prices a penny. It's the same with most major corporations. I choose to not contribute to their riches

FRANK EARLEY's picture

In this economy.................

In this economy, you are lucky to just have a job. With huge corporations like Walmart, taking advantage of this situation, things will never change. I wonder if this is what Sam Walton had in mind when he started this company? I seem to remember these very folksy commercials on TV. I remember the Paul Harvey plugs for Walmart, indicating that when a Walmart came into town, you couldn't ask for a better neighbor. Paul Harvey's livelihood depended on his honesty, when endorsing a product or company. I can't believe he would support the Walmart of today.
It almost seems that, like a lot of family run corporations, when the elder CEO finally retires and a much younger, much more money orientated person takes over. Be it a son or daughter, it doesn't matter, The emphasis changes from good neighbor, friendly kind of enviroment, to how much money will we clear this quarter. What you end up with after that? Walmart of today.
Earning the share holders billions of dollars of the backs of the employees who aren't paid enough to scrape together a living. I've seen their corporate headquarters, I delivered many loads there as a truck driver years ago. I can tell you this. Not every employee at Walmart is under paid. It seems they do have their favorite levels of associates, and some of them are very well paid.
No, the intentional low wages at Walmart is a business decision. As for the employee's, they can take it or leave it, management doesn't care. with an unemployment level of 7 or 8 percent, the sky's the limit...............

Steve  Dosh's picture

. .‘living wage’ outside Maine Walmarts on Black Friday

Mainers , Black ƒlyday 14:45 hst ?
. . i'm all for this simply because about 2 0 1 3 years ago there was no room at the inn . ... either " ... we must bring him silver and gold ."
hth , Dr. Dosh
Do You Hear What I Hear ? - Whitney •

MARK GRAVE's picture

All that your example

All that your example illustrates is that life goes on even without a "living wage."

Wait! Isn't it a contradiction seeing people continue to live if they don't have a living wage? I would think they would cease to live if they earned a non-living wage. Something is not adding up here. Perhaps they can live on a non-living wage, so we are witnessing a modern day "boy who cried wolf."

Who'd of thunk.

Roger Moulton's picture

????????

Yet another comment that most people will not understand. Again I ask you to put your drugs away or at least share them so the rest of us can laugh at your comments rather than wanting to find a way to steal your keyboard. ^moron^ no wonder you are a liberal.

should take this must

should take this must interest on all the jobs going over seas due to NAFTA ! Question did they all meet at DD before they went out to protest?

MARK GRAVE's picture

I understand what you are

I understand what you are saying, but NAFTA stands for North American Free Trade Agreement. There are no oceans between the U.S. and North America. In fact, the U.S. is in North America.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Working at Walmart is a choice

Working at Walmart is a choice. These protesters need to get a life.

Roger Moulton's picture

Sometimes

it is the only choice they have. It's one thing to pay minimum wage, it's another to pay minimum wage when you are making those kind of profits, and your employees have to use my tax money to survive.

MARK GRAVE's picture

I would assert that it isn’t

I would assert that it isn’t the only choice they have, it is the choice they make.

Anyone working a minimum wage job, there is huge opportunity to earn more. Those individuals that stay is minimum wage jobs are by choice alone.

Bob White's picture

Roger

These people aren't being held against their will, they are free to go work any place they want. Why is it our business how much Wal-Mart makes? Is it our business what you make? As long as Wal-Mart and you aren't doing anything illegal then its really none of our business. I know what your going to say next because "these people need assistants so it is my business" well your right it is but your beef is with the people not the store so tell the works to go get a better paying job. People are jealous what Sam Walton has done, what I say to those jealous people is go out and invest and take a chance like Sam Walton did and you can have the same as he has. (had) Then see how you like it when people tell you how to run your business

MARK GRAVE's picture

People who complain do not

People who complain do not have the right stuff to be the next Sam Walton.

Those who have the right stuff are in the trenches working towards becoming the next Sam Walton.

RONALD RIML's picture

Shopping at Walmart is also a Choice......which I decline.

Eric LeBlanc obviously seeks his own level.....

MARK GRAVE's picture

That is how a free market

That is how a free market supposed to work - you choose.

However, given the popularity of Walmart, you are on the wrong side of yet another issue. Hey, freedom means you can be wrong; I can respect that.

RONALD RIML's picture

Freedom has allowed the Waltons to exploit the masses.....

They offer crap - the masses choose it.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Well, I'm glad to see you did

Well, I'm glad to see you did not choke on any turkey bones, mash potatoes, or stuffing over Thanksgiving.

That said, no one is holding a gun to the heads of Walmart shoppers. The masses want cheap stuff. Freedom is letting the people choose, and they have chosen with where they open up their wallets.

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