A handful of protesters was arrested Friday outside of a Wal-Mart in Chicago's Lake View neighborhood.
The protesters were part of a nationwide demonstration asking Wal-Mart to provide a living wage to its employees, and to give them holidays off.
"Workers deserve a living wage," one of the protesters said into the microphone set up outside the location. "Workers deserve a day off for Thanksgiving, they deserve respect on the job. We just found out Walmart is going to be retaliated for workers trying to organizing; that's why we're glad labor board standing with Walmart workers.
Federal officials said Monday they were prepared to file formal complaints against Wal-Mart for allegedly violating the legal rights of protesting workers last year.
The National Labor Relations Board announced that its general counsel, Richard Griffin, found merit in charges that the retailer unlawfully threatened employees in California and Texas with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests ahead of Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving.
Representatives from Wal-Mart said the demonstrators in Chicago on Friday had very few current Wal-Mart employees on site and that the protesters were mostly representative of labor groups looking to unionize Wal-Mart workers.
“It’s a way that allows the unions to skirt labor organizing laws by letting the activist groups they sponsor to attack employers for them. Big Labor is spending millions of dollars on a massive charade against job creators at a time when our economy can least afford it,” said Ryan Williams, media director for Worker Center Watch.
Chicago police arrested a handful of the protesters Friday morning for blocking a public way. Police made numerous announcements before making arrests, and gave each individual a chance to move off the public way before being escorted to a police vehicle.
Erica Jones, senior manager of communications for Wal-Mart, said the majority of the demonstraters were not representative of Wal-Mart employees and that their arrests had been orchestrated with police ahead of time.
"Our associates love their jobs, they love working for Wal-Mart," she said. "We continue to provide opportunity for not only our associates, but also the communities we operate in."
At least one protester in Chicago does work for a local Wal-Mart.
"This is my store, I'm here to take a stand, because to think that Walmart is a good company to work for ... which it is until I saw the retaliation, unjust firings, and no living wage," said Myron Byrd, who estimates he makes about $16,000 per year from Wal-Mart. "When all said and done in my pocket, 20 dollars a month."
Published at 12:02 PM CST on Nov 29, 2013