The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police arrested 21 people protesting Wal-Mart’s working conditions and firing practices, including seven company workers and 12 members of the clergy, in a LA Chinatown rally Sept. 6.
Police spokeswoman Officer Rosario Herrera said protesters were blocking an intersection shortly before 2 p.m. and were arrested for failing to disperse.
Rally organizers say the protest in the Chinatown district, where a Wal-Mart store is planned, was one of 15 across the country. The rally organizers say that 1,000 people, including current and former Wal-Mart workers plus supporters marched through downtown calling on the company to reinstate illegally fired and disciplined workers and improve wages.
Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., says the company estimated roughly 150 people at the Los Angeles protest, of which 20 were current or former employees; and fewer than 1,000 people participated nationwide. Herrera said police do not provide crowd estimates.
“It’s our duty as Americans to speak up for ourselves,” said Anthony Goytia, an overnight stocker at the Duarte Walmart who was arrested. His comments were released by organizers in a statement to the media. “We cannot wait any longer for Walmart management and executives to improve jobs at our stores. Today we are letting Walmart know that they can’t push us around, they can’t bully us. We are human beings.”
Buchanan said the protests were publicity stunts orchestrated by unions that didn’t represent the majority of its 1.3 million workers nationwide.
Rally organizers called Wal-Mart pay poverty wages of an average $8.81 an hour, especially in light of the company’s $16 billion in profit last year.
But Buchanan said Wal-Mart paid an average hourly wage for full-time workers of $12.83. She said 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.” (end)