Reporting Reg Chapman
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Hundreds gathered outside the Wal-Mart store on Friday along University Avenue in St. Paul.
There were some workers who had walked off the job, and others were members of labor unions lending their support.
Wal-Mart did say it had the best Black Friday ever, despite the protests that were planned across the nation on the busiest shopping day of the year.
Those who walked the picket line on Friday say their voices will be heard — they want better pay and affordable health care.
“Our No. 1 goal today is to support these workers and to call on Wal-Mart to quit silencing the workers,” said Bernie Hesse of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
Close to a dozen different labor unions showed up.
Hesse said there were protests at more than 1,000 Wal-Marts across the county.
He says Wal-Mart workers want the higher ups to deal with issues they felt have gone unattended for years.
“Listen to our issues,” Hesse said. “We want respect on the job. We want some sort of regular hours. It’s like a roller coaster working at a Wal-Mart. We want better pay and a chance at affordable health care.”
Gabe Teneyuque walked off his job at the Walmart in Apple Valley.
“I went on strike for the worker that has no voice,” he said.
He says he speaks for others who are afraid to come forward, but are finding it hard to make ends meet on what they are paid.
“The average Wal-Mart worker, when you add it up, they live just above the poverty rate,” Teneyuque said. “And I really think someone that works that hard, and puts something so much into a company that is so huge deserves a little better.”
Wal-Mart says the number of protests being reported by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union are grossly exaggerated.
The company says the number of workers who’ve missed their scheduled shift today is more than 60 percent less than Black Friday last year.
Wal-Mart says the protestors, the OUR Walmart group, doesn’t speak for the 1.3 million Wal-Mart associates.