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Dayton Walmart Blocks Protesters At The Door

Clarence Stewart works at a Walmart in Cincinnati. He says he was kicked out of the Dayton Walmart for talking to customers about the strike.
Lewis Wallace

Walmart staff blocked the doors Thursday as protesters attempted to enter the Butler Township store with fliers for their Black Friday demonstration.

Around 60 people gathered in the cold outside the Walmart off Miller Lane, demanding Walmart raise wages to $15 an hour. The event started out as your standard protest, with speeches, chants and signs. Willis Blackshear is the Montgomery County recorder.

“It makes no sense that you’ve got a company that makes profits over 16 billion dollars a year, that they don’t pay a living wage for people to live and make it work for them,” said Willis Blackshear, the Montgomery County Recorder, over cheers from the crowd. “It makes no sense.”

At least a dozen Walmart workers, some of whom had delivered strike letters to their managers, showed up at the demonstration.

“I would like to know that full-time workers aren’t using food stamps, or full-time workers aren’t being retaliated against and they’ve been there for years,” said Huber Heights resident Kanada Pope, who says she’s been at Walmart for a year. Multiple Walmart employees said there’s a fear of retaliation for people who join the protest movement.

When the whole crew tried to go inside with fliers, they were blocked at the door by a line of Walmart staff and police; only the Walmart workers are let in, and they weren’t allowed to give out fliers. They say they were quickly kicked out by management.

Walmart management on site declined to comment, but they did bring media into the store to talk to a worker who sides with the company.

Walmart staff blocked the door to prevent protesters from entering, standing aside to allow customers to come in and out.
Credit Lewis Wallace / WYSO
Walmart staff blocked the door to prevent protesters from entering, standing aside to allow customers to come in and out.

“What I get paid now, I’m able to support me and my family,” said TarynnReeder, standing in front of the Christmas ornaments. She says she’s been with Walmart for four and a half years, and there’s room for growth. She thinks a lot of her co-workers would agree with her that it’s a good workplace—although when asked if the protesters were “a minority,” she shook her head.

Talking by phone, Walmart spokesman KoryLundberg said Walmart has a strict policy against retaliation. He accused the unions connected with the protests, which include the UFCW and the IUE-CWA, of drumming up hype about retaliation without substantiating their claims.

“There’s a reason 1.3 million people in the U.S. choose to work for us,” Lundberg said. “And I think it’s because they understand that they have unparalleled opportunities and great benefits to their job.”

The Walmart protests are part of a growing movement for a higher minumum wage that has included restaurant, retail and fast food workers. Organizers say employees of 2,100 Walmart stores have signed a petition demanding higher wages and full-time hours, and they’re planning protests nationwide for Black Friday. Locations include Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Troy.

Lewis Wallace is WYSO's managing editor, substitute host and economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.