Chicago was among 15 cities throughout the nation on Thursday that saw Walmart employees and their supporters protesting for higher wages and increased hours.
A couple hundred people marched outside Chicago's west loop store, at 570 W. Monroe St., to stand up against what they say is a culture of disrespect from the nation's largest employer.
"They need to start offering us full-time hours, and to give us $25,000 a year for pay, which is just above the poverty line. It would really help with the everyday living expenses," said protester Mary Pat Tifft.
Another woman taking part in the protest, Anna Pritchard, said she joined to show support for those employees who have been punished or fired for speaking out against the retailer.
"I'm here to represent the ones that don't want to speak up," she said. "All we're asking for is better wages, something to live on."
One protest group that calls itself OneWalmart is demanding the company pay its employees $13 per hour. Walmart says it already pays its full-time employees $12.40. Still, the independent research group IBISWorld said the actual number is under $9 per hour.
Walmart officials released a statement Thursday saying those protesting represent only a fraction of its employees.
"A handful of union-orchestrated media stunts, made up of union members and activists, don't represent the views of the vast majority of the 1.3 million associates who do work for Walmart," said company spokeswoman Brook Buchanan.
She added that 75 percent of the company's management started off as hourly workers and some store managers now make more than $250,000 annually.
"We're really proud of our jobs and we're proud of the opportunity that's available at Wal-Mart," Buchanan said. "We have entry level jobs all the way up into management. If you want a career at Wal-Mart, you'll move up the ranks."
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. earned $16 billion in profits last year.