PINELLAS PARK - Protesters marched on a Pinellas Park Walmart on Black Friday, speaking out against what they call unfair treatment of workers. It was one of several similar protests taking place across the country.
The group of about 25 to 30 people stood on the sidewalk outside the Walmart, holding up signs and singing anti-Walmart Christmas carols. They got the attention of many Black Friday shoppers, which many honking their car horns in support and others yelling out their opposition to the protest.
The group claims Walmart retaliates against employees who organize or complain about low wages and a lack of benefits.
“We’re standing up for the workers. They can’t speak for themselves, so we’re out here for them,” said Robin Wynn, representing SEIU, the Service Employees International Union.
The group protested from 10am to noon on Black Friday. They marched to the front doors of the store and hung a banner from the roof critical of Walmart. Walmart managers watched on to make sure they didn’t interfere with Black Friday shoppers. After about 10 minutes, the group made their way back to the sidewalk peacefully. There were no arrests.
Of the 30 protesters, organizers admitted none of them were actual Walmart employees. They were members of SEIU and Occupy. Reporter Michael George asked protest organizers why they didn’t have any current employees there protesting.
“Because they’re scared. Whenever they do try to organize, they’re retaliated against,” said Jennifer Romanelli Mitchell of Occupy.
ABC Action News did speak with an actual Walmart employee who watched the protesters during her break. Nina Moore says she’s been working at Walmart for 5 years, and the company treats her well. She says the protesters don’t speak for her.
“I think they treat us wonderful. I get a lot of respect. I don’t work for minimum wage,” Moore said.
Moore also said in this economy, she’s happy just to have a job. Protest organizers say there are many employees who are being mistreated, but they’re afraid to speak out.
“I understand and I know exactly how that feels to be fortunate enough to have a job. But at the same time, Walmart kind of makes it like they are the only job by shutting down a lot of local businesses,” Mitchell said.
In an e-mailed response to ABC Action News, Walmart’s Vice President of Corporate Communications said, “The number of protests being reported by the UFCW are grossly exaggerated. It was proven last night – and again today – that the OUR Walmart group doesn’t speak for the 1.3 million Walmart associates. We had our best Black Friday ever and OUR Walmart was unable to recruit more than a small number of associates to participate in these made for TV events. Press reports are now exposing what we have said all along – the large majority of protesters aren’t even Walmart workers.”