Tulsa Protesters Picket For Walmart Store Employees

Friday, November 29th 2013, 12:59 pm
By: News On 6

Some supporters of Walmart employees protested on Black Friday outside an east Tulsa store.

About a dozen people stood along Memorial Drive near Admiral Boulevard at the store's entrance.

The group said they were taking part in a national campaign asking the retail giant to take better care of its employees.

One of the protesters, former Walmart associate Ariana Eakle says Walmart employees make less than a "living wage."

Walmart says it gives its employees plenty of opportunities to grow and establish a career.

But protestors say the company doesn't pay its employees enough and are asking Walmart to raise the bar.

Folks arrived early on Black Friday morning to make signs and protest.

"Going to be, 'Higher wages mean lower food stamps," Kevin Polovina said about his sign.

Ariana Eakle was a part-time employee at the Walmart in Stigler for a year and a half.

"I think it was a lot better back whenever Sam [Walton] was running it, but now that his children have taken it over, I think that they focus on making the maximum benefit for shareholders and for themselves rather than for the millions and millions of people that work for them," Eakle said.

She says she felt taken advantage of because she was often asked to work holidays even though she wasn't eligible for holiday pay as a part-time employee.

Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States and Eakle says the company sets the market for how other retailers pay their employees.

"If we can get Walmart to pay people enough to live on, then maybe we can get other stores to follow them, because right now Walmart sets the benchmark on wages because of their size," she said.

Walmart says the average salary for a full-time employee is $27,700 and the average hourly wage for a part-time employee is $12.83.

A company spokeswoman says they're proud of the opportunities Walmart provides its employees.

"It's not as much as where you start, it's where you end up," spokesperson Betsey Harden said. "And I think the fact that 75 percent of our store management teams started as hourly associates really speaks to the opportunities that our jobs provide."

Mitch Runnels says these protests offer the perfect chance to show the corporate world that reform isn't going to come from management. Instead, he says, it's the workers who should have control.

"It's time for something different; it's time for us to do things for ourselves," Runnels said.

Walmart said in a statement Friday that it respects the right of people to protest, but the company also wants to point out that it promotes more than 400 associates every day to new positions.