By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mirroring demonstrations planned across the country, a small group of protesters gathered at the main parking lot entrance of the Walmart on West Main Street Friday morning.
The OURWalmart movement decries what supporters say is the retail giant’s retaliation against workers who talk about low pay, fewer hours and expensive or non-existent health care insurance.
Rev. James Hull and Bob Spencer of Tupelo were among a half-dozen wearing neon green shirts and holding signs like “Stop Silencing Associates” and “Strike Against Retaliation.”
“When just people have a cause, people who feel like they are just should support it,” Hull said.
Hull and Spencer were among activists and community organizers targeted by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union to drum up support for the protests.
“People are supportive; this isn’t a union issue, but people are asking for more and better,” said Aarti Patel, an organizer for the UFCW who rallied the group in Tupelo.
They say the world’s largest retailer rakes in enough profit to share more of it with its employees.
“They are the backbone of Walmart and the backbone of our country,” Spencer said. “Here’s a company making billions. Why should the Walton family each make hundreds of millions of dollars of years and its employees don’t make enough to buy insurance.”
Isis Johnson-Brown was protesting in support of her daughter-in-law, whom she said was “trapped” in her 16-year career at Walmart.
“Her hours are not good. … she’s maxed out at her salary level,” she said. “She’s a hard worker, a very hard worker.”
Johnson-Brown said her daughter-in-law has been offered a management job, which likely would provide a higher salary. But she said, “she doesn’t want it.”
Some Walmart workers across the country walked off their jobs, but that didn’t appear to happen in Tupelo.
OURWalmart said workers in more than 100 cities were expected to strike “to inform customers about the illegal actions that Walmart has taken against its workers.”
Walmart officials, however, said fewer than 50 Walmart employees participated nationwide. The company employs about 1.4 million people overall.
And while shoppers might have been supportive of workers, they clearly weren’t turned away from shopping.
Walmart said it enjoyed its best-ever Black Friday-related events, with bigger crowds from last year. The company said it processed nearly 10 million register transactions and nearly 5,000 items per second between 8 p.m. Thursday through midnight. On Thursday alone, Walmart said 22 million customers came through its doors.