Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Buffalo

Walmart protesters speak out

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CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. - Chanting, holding signs, standing in solidarity - these Walmart protesters are looking for a change.

"This is important and now's the time," said Grace Sheedy with the Making Change at Walmart campaign.

About two dozen community members and labor supporters rallied in the rain Friday in front of Walmart on Harlem Road speaking out to make their jobs better.

"Some of the biggest issues are respect, respect on the job, a fair scheduling system, better wages and better benefits," said Sheedy.

During a time of financial hardships, Walmart workers are asking for affordable healthcare. Protesters say for the coming year, health benefits have been raised by as much as 36 percent.

"These jobs need to be good jobs for people who are raising a family," said Sheedy.

The non-violent protest was part of a nationwide movement that started in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. While no Walmart workers from the Cheektowaga store protested Friday, labor supporters said hundreds of workers around the country joined the long-time cause.

"We've been fighting this and protesting this for literally decades," said Richard Lipsitz, the president of the WNY Labor Federation.

Protesters said some Rochester workers went as far as walking out on the job because of holiday scheduling.

"A lot of workers missed out on Thanksgiving because the company opened up on Thanksgiving night," said Sheedy.

And while labor supporters say the big box store shouldn't be open on certain holidays, some customers we spoke with disagree.

"They should be open on holidays, because people do like to come in the last minute and buy groceries," said Yarjeliz Andino of Buffalo.

Buffalo resident Jamal Rhodes agrees.

"I think they should be open, because everybody shops at the last minute and it really helps out," said Rhodes.

In the meantime, protesters are keeping up the fight and are hoping things will change in the next couple years.

According to a new Walmart press release, despite the protests, the store reported best-ever early Black Friday results processing 5,000 items per second at its peak period.

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