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Towson Walmart protests go forward

A labor protest outside the Walmart in Towson went forward peacefully Friday, despite a court order that barred demonstrators from trespassing on the retail giant's properties in Maryland.

The two-hour demonstration, which drew about 60 people, was one of hundreds nationwide planned for Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Protesters also went to the Walmart in Arbutus.

In Towson, protesters marched on the sidewalk along Joppa Road outside Towson Place rather than entering the shopping center property. On Tuesday, an Anne Arundel County circuit judge forbade demonstrations on the retailer's properties until a Walmart trespassing case goes to trial.

"We're not planning to do any civil disobedience today. Maybe another day," said Sharon Black, 64, of Baltimore. "We're not in it for one demonstration."

The Making Change at Walmart campaign is calling on the company to pay $25,000 starting salaries for full-time workers, offer more workers full-time hours and stop retaliating against employees for speaking out. It is supported by the United Food & Commercial Workers and OUR Walmart, a group of former and current Walmart employees.

The company's average pay for full-time workers is $12.81 an hour, said David Tovar, Wal-Mart Stores' vice president of corporate communications.

Labor activists from Baltimore's "We deserve better" Workers Assembly said they decided to participate in the anti-Walmart effort as part of their push to raise Maryland's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"Of course [people] need inexpensive things and we're not against shopping on Black Friday, but we're against low wages and any form of exploitation," said Black as passing cars honked in support.

Protesters conferred with police — who were represented by at least four uniformed officers — before starting their demonstration in Towson.

Walmart played down the protests and said it had been the "most successful" Black Friday in the company's history, "with customers receiving bigger and better savings and an overall safer shopping experience." The company said it processed more than 10 million register transactions between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, selling 2 million televisions, 2.8 million towels and 1.9 million dolls.

"Black Friday is a big stage, and we're one of the biggest players in the retail industry," Tovar said in a statement. "We're not surprised that those trying to change our industry are using this platform to get their message out, and we respect their right to be heard."

nsherman@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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