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TMCNet:  Demonstration held outside of Durham Wal-Mart

[November 23, 2012]

Demonstration held outside of Durham Wal-Mart

DURHAM, Nov 23, 2012 (The Herald-Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- About 50 protestors marched around the New Hope Commons shopping center on Friday as part of a demonstration for the rights of Wal-Mart workers. They chanted "Boycott Wal-Mart" and held signs with slogans such as "Living Wage Now" and "Big Profit, Low Wages, Always." The demonstration was sparked by Wal-Mart protests going on elsewhere in the country, said Nick Wood, a Durham resident who said he's a member of an organizing committee for a group called Triangle Jobs with Justice.

Wood said that while some may have been chanting "boycott," that wasn't the intent of the demonstration. He said the event was about supporting the workers.

"Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year, and many Wal-Mart employees were here working all night to make profits for the company," Wood said. "We wanted Wal-Mart, who is the leader in this industry, to hear our voices loudest," he added.

According to a press release on the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union website, Wal-Mart workers in more than 100 cities were expected to go on strike on Thursday as part of a series of protests.

The workers are members of an organization called OUR Walmart, according to the release, and are on strike in protest of the company's "attempts to silence workers who speak out for better jobs." David Tovar, vice president for corporate communications for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said in a statement in a press release that the number of protests reported by the UFCW is "grossly exaggerated." "We are aware of a few dozen protests at our stores (Friday)," he said in the statement. "The number of associates that have missed their scheduled shift today is more than 60 percent less than Black Friday last year." Bill Simon, the U.S. president and CEO for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said in a prepared statement in a news release Friday there were 26 protests held during the night at Wal-Mart stores, and many did not include Wal-Mart employees.

"In addition, the company did not experience the walk-offs that were promised by the UFCW," Simon said in the statement.

Caitlyn Thomson, a Durham resident who was one of the local protestors, said that at that particular Wal-Mart, there was no walk-out by store associates.

She said the demonstration was going on to support the workers.

"We want them to have living wages, the right to organize," she said.

The Durham demonstrators were not affiliated with any one particular organization, she said.

A news release said the event drew participation from the NC State AFL-CIO and Progress North Carolina.

There were also people present who have been involved with Occupy Chapel Hill/Carrboro.

Initially the demonstration, which was targeted to start at 11 a.m. in Durham, was started on Wal-Mart's property in the shopping center, but the protestors were asked to move.

Tom Harris, a Durham resident and a participant in the demonstration, said members of the activist group the Raging Grannies also sang in front of the store before the protestors were asked to move.

"They can't really make a living while working at Wal-Mart," Harris said. "This is the time we can get our message across best," he added.

Wood said that although Wal-Mart wasn't the only employer to open on Thanksgiving Day, the demonstration was held against Wal-Mart because the retailer "sets the labor markets (that) have created the situation." A Wal-Mart manager and police officers at the Wal-Mart on Friday declined comment.

Lt. Ryan Freeman with the Durham Police Department said he didn't have any complaint calls related to the incident.

"It probably makes sense because this is Wal-Mart's property, and obviously shopping is one thing, protesting is another," he said. "They probably had to request (from) the business, just to go into the parking lot." ___ (c)2012 The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.) Visit The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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