BUSINESS

Black Friday Wal-Mart protests

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LANDOVER HILLS, Md. (WJLA) - Black Friday shoppers at many Wal-Marts around the region and around the country were met not just with deep discounts but also with protestors demanding that the big-box retailer improve wages and working conditions for its employees.

A group of activists, organizers, and union members – excluding employees – made their case for change on Friday morning at a Walmart in Springfield.

"People can't live on the wages being paid at Walmart and many of the other retailers, and so Walmart should do better," said one organizer.

In vigils and protests across the country, groups are using Black Friday as an opportunity to call for better working conditions and for wages of at least $25,000 a year.

They are focusing on the nation’s largest retailer because, they argue, if Walmart makes changes, other companies will surely follow.

Fairfax County police arrested nine protestors in front of one Wal-Mart at 6303 Richmond Highway in Fairfax. A Fairfax County Police spokesman said that organizers from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union had intended for the protestors to get arrested, and that the arrest was non-confrontational. Roughly 200 people protested at the Fairfax Wal-Mart, the police spokesman said.

"Wal-Mart is a multi billion dollar corporation and I know they can do more with what they're doing," protestor Isaah Beamon said.

Walmart employee Tiffany Beroid says workers are simply not making enough to live.

"It is important that we be able to afford things for our families because it's not only me, it's workers around the nation experiencing the same thing that I am," she said.

Publicly, Wal-Mart has said that protests at it stores are largely union-created public relations events where most participants are not actual Wal-Mart employees.

"Until you're able to come in to the store and actually work for the company, you're just going by what somebody told you or what you may have read," Wal-Mart employee Wendell White said.

White has worked in the electronics department of the Alexandria store since April of 2012, and sees a lot of potential for promotion.

The protests are largely organized by the union that represents retail workers, a group that has protested in front of Wal-Mart locations before. For their black Friday protest, organizers are also raising concerns about holiday hours for workers required to come to work on Thanksgiving.

Nationwide, organizers said protestors will picket 1,500 Wal-Marts on Friday. Locally, protestors greeted shoppers outside stores in Alexandria, Fairfax and  Prince George's County.

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