A Walmart protestor is placed under arrest by L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies on Friday.
A Walmart protestor is placed under arrest by L.A. County Sheriff's deputies on Friday. (Brittany Murray/Staff Photographer)

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PARAMOUNT - Workers at Walmart stores from throughout Southern California plan to walk off their jobs today on the busiest shopping day of the year as part of a nationwide union-organized protest. | » Shoppers Guide Live Blog

The workers plan to gather at the Paramount Walmart store, where they will be joined by members of the clergy, community organizations and other supporters to protest the company's attempts to silence them for speaking out for better jobs, according to Making Change at Walmart, which is organized by the United Food & Commercial Workers union.

The group hopes the protest inspires other workers and "move a step closer to ending retaliation and improving their jobs."

Walmart expects "only a handful of associates" to participate in what it called "UFCW publicity stunts," according to Steven V. Restivo, Walmart's senior director of community affairs.

"Most of the people UFCW claims at their events aren't even Walmart workers," Restivo said. "They are union representatives and other union members."

Walmart workers have been speaking out about "take-home pay so low that many workers' families have to rely on public assistance just to stay afloat," "understaffing that is keeping workers from receiving sufficient hours and hurts customer service" and safety issues, according to Making Change at Walmart.


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Restivo said Walmart's "pay and benefits plans are as good as or better than our retail competitors, including those that are unionized."

"If they weren't, we wouldn't be able to hire people and staff our stores," Restivo said. "Last year alone, we received 5 million job applications."

Walmart has 250,000 employees who have worked for the company for more than 10 years, according to Restivo. He said Walmart promoted 165,000 hourly employees last year and that its 37 percent turnover rate is lower than the 44 percent retail industry average. Nearly 75 percent of Walmart's store management teams started out in hourly positions, and 20 percent of the people it hired last year had previously worked at Walmart, decided to leave, and then returned, according to Restivo.

Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, has long been a target of organized labor because it is not unionized.

Because Walmart is not unionized, "the extent to which unions can influence Walmart's labor practices is pretty limited," Anthony Dukes, an associate professor of marketing at USC's Marshall School of Business, told City News Service.

"My guess is I don't expect Walmart to somehow change their labor practices simply because of the union's protests," Dukes said.

Restivo said he does not expect today's protests "to have any impact on our stores or our customers' shopping experience on Black Friday."

Dukes said the protests might hurt Walmart's sales today "a little bit, but my guess is the people who shop at Walmart might not be as motivated about these sorts of issues as other people."