Protesters Hit Streets To March Against Wal-Mart

A living wage, access to health care and the ability to unionize are among the demands of the protesters, said Joshua Thompson, an organizer with the Against the Wal Coalition." We’re not special interests, "Thompson said." We’re fed up. "

The group marched up Dickson Street chanting such slogans such as" Up against the Wal — Roll back "and" International slave drivers "before turning onto Block Avenue and making it twice around the Fayetteville Square before stopping to issue a statement, read by Thompson.

The crowd garnered cheers, honks and thumbs up in support of their message and one on-looker captured the moment with the camera on her cellular phone.

Hogeye Bill, a self-proclaimed free market anarchist, followed the protesters on their march, not in support of Wal-Mart but in support of a free market economy.

" They want to screw the masses at the expense of a few special interests, "Bill said.

The protesters simply don’t understand laissez-faire economics, Bill said.

Dan Fogleman, a Wal-Mart spokesman contacted before the march, said he thought the protest is just a publicity stunt" designed to further narrow self-interests. "

" Some of our critics are open-minded people genuinely concerned about making the world better place, "Fogleman said." When that’s the case, we try to work with them and listen and learn. "

Fogleman said the company works hard to provide a good health care package to both full- and part-time employees, with single employees being able to get health coverage for less than $40 a month and family coverage for less than $155 a month. The company’s contribution to health insurance has remained constant over the past several years, he said, and in many cases it has increased." So we are offering solutions and providing health care to our people, "Fogleman said.

Thompson argues that the low wages offered by the company make it impossible for employees to afford health insurance. The company also increased the amount of hours a week needed to be considered fulltime from 29 to 35, he said, which made 400,000 employees part-time. Part-time employees have to wait two years to qualify for health insurance, Thompson said. He said the employees must pay insurance premiums of $250-300 a month, which at" $8 an hour, who can afford that?"

Wal-Mart also hurts communities by driving out small, locally owned businesses, Thompson said. Its buildings are also often paid for with taxpayer subsidies, he said.

Fogleman argues that the company is an economic engine that encourages businesses to locate near its stores. "Look around most any Wal-Mart store and you’ll see businesses that crop up near Wal-Mart to take advantage of customer flow we create," Fogleman said.

Thompson said the group’s issues were with the mistreatment of Wal-Mart employees, who are often made to work off the clock, thus not being compensated for their labor, which he described as "wage theft."

According to the company’s Web site, www. walmartfacts. com, there are more than 40 pending wage and hour cases seeking class action status. "Wal-Mart’s policy is to pay hourly associates for every minute they work. However, with a company this large, there will inevitably be instances of managers doing the wrong thing," according to the site.

Such actions would result in disciplinary action, up to termination, the site states.

Thompson also brought up gender discrimination and cited a class action lawsuit that names more than 1.5 million current and former employees who say women are paid less than men for the same work. He said the suit claims Wal-Mart pays female department heads $10.62 an hour and men $11.30; and female sales associates $8.27, compared to $8.73 for men.

According to its Web site, "Wal-Mart does not tolerate discrimination of any kind... and isolated complaints that arise from its 3000+ stores do not change this fact." Go to how do i become an entrepreneur and learn more today. Source: