December 18, 2014

Medina
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Wal-Mart labor policies protested

WADSWORTH — Protesters gathered near Wal-Mart on Black Friday to denounce what they called unfair treatment of the corporation’s employees.

“Some of these workers are making less than $20,000 a year and trying to raise families,” protester Kathleen Kelly-Calcei said.

She said that while Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the U.S., some of its workers rely on food stamps to support their households.

Kelly-Calcei said the problem would be solved if Wal-Mart would pay its employees more or give them fulltime hours.

She and six others, representing the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, Tricounty Regional Labor Council and the United Steel Workers, protested at Smokerise Drive and High Street between 9:30 and 11 a.m.

A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, Katie Cody, disputed the protesters’ assertions.

“Wal-Mart provides wages on the higher end of the retail average with full-time and part-time associates making, on average, close to $12 an hour,” Cody said. “The majority of our workforce is full time, and our average full-time hourly pay is $12.81 an hour.”

She said workers usually start at entry-level positions, but are treated well and often are promoted.

“Wal-Mart is on track to promote 160,000 associates this year,” she said. “Seventy-five percent of our store managers started off as hourly associates.”

Wal-Mart fell under nationwide scrutiny earlier this month when a Canton store asked its employees to contribute to a food drive for fellow workers.

Protesters said they were in Wadsworth on behalf of workers there, who asked them to draw attention to the corporation’s practices like those in Canton. The local workers, protesters said, feared for their jobs if they spoke out.

Cody said that’s not something Wal-Mart employees need to worry about.

“We don’t retaliate against employees,” Cody said. “We invite them to speak their mind and encourage them to talk with management if they have issues.”

She said Wal-Mart workers can count on the corporation to give them jobs — as long as they’re willing to work hard.

“It’s businesses like Wal-Mart that can create opportunities for career growth and greater economic security for families,” she said.

About 20 Wal-Mart stores across the country were targeted Friday by protesters, Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg told The Associated Press.

“By and large they just didn’t involve anybody who works at the company,” he said.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.