Labor groups, employees protest during Black Friday at Chicago Wal-Mart stores

November 23, 2012

Tricia Bobeda

Tricia Bobeda/WBEZ
Wal-Mart employee Marie Kanger-Born joined hundreds of protesters on Black Friday outside Chicago area Wal-Mart stores.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Chicago area Wal-Marts today as holiday shoppers crowded the stores for Black Friday sales.

A group of Wal-Mart employees called the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart (OUR Walmart) transported protesters around the city in buses. Protesters want the nation’s largest retailer to offer more dependable schedules, better health care and higher wages to employees.

Both sides have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board as part of an their ongoing dispute.

Park Forest resident and Wal-Mart employee Marie Kanger-Born said she hopes the Black Friday protests will give the movement momentum.

"The rest of the country has started to take notice of the plight of the Wal-Mart workers," Kanger-Born said. "This is America. Everyone should be able to work one job and make a decent livable wage."

Chicago resident and Sam's Club employee Rosetta Brown said she has protested how Wal-Mart treats workers like her for more than a decade.

"We’re just tired of taking it and we need to be heard," Brown said. "I mean, a person should be able to exercise their right to vote if they want a union. The workers are speaking out saying we need help and we’re coming together. What’s wrong with that? Wal-Mart should be listening and having a meeting with all of us."

Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg didn't address the protesters concerns directly but said Friday morning that the protests were not getting in the way of holiday shoppers. The company was on track to have its best-selling Black Friday event ever.

"Last night during our Black Friday events we had only 26 protests occurred at stores (nationwide) and many of them did not include any Wal-Mart associates," Lundberg said.

He said Wal-Mart estimated that fewer than 50 associates participated in protests nationwide on Friday night.

"In fact this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year," Lundberg said.