Protest at Wal-Mart in Ontario on Black Friday draws dozens of workers

While the Black Friday shopping frenzy was taking place inside the Wal-Mart store in Ontario, things were decidedly less cheery outside in the parking lot early Friday morning.

At 6 a.m., a scheduled protest staged by Warehouse Workers United, which represents a group of workers who work for warehouses contracted by Wal-Mart, began.

About 150 people -- some of whom belonged to Organization United for Respect at Walmart, which represents Wal-Mart associates -- marched outside the discounter's Ontario location yelling protest chants, predominantly in Spanish, including "Si Se Puede" ("Yes we can").

The protesters, which also included community members, were demanding fair wages and better working conditions. As they reached the front of the store, their chants of  "What do we want? Justice!" grew louder.

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One protester dressed up as Santa Claus held a sign that read, "Santa supports workers, why doesn't Wal-Mart?" and tried to recruit more people to join him. Another wore a Guy Fawkes mask.

The protest ended on the corner of Mountain Avenue and 5th Street, where protesters blocked traffic. Although the demonstration was organized and orderly, within an hour the Ontario police department declared the blocking off of an intersection an unlawful assembly and repeatedly asked protesters to vacate the street.

Ten protesters chose to stay on the street and said they expected to be arrested. The rest of the protesters walked back to the sidewalk in an orderly fashion.

Among those arrested: the man who dressed up as Santa.

In the past, the United Food and Commercial Workers and OUR Walmart, a subsidiary of UFCW, had offered $50 gift cards to anyone who showed up to protest. The National Labor Relations Board approved the practice in a memorandum this month.

Many anti-Walmart protests in the past have lacked actual Wal-Mart employees. At the protest on Friday, workers from other Wal-Mart locations were present, but none from the Ontario store.

Shoppers trickling into the Wal-Mart were unaware there was a protest scheduled. A media relations representative for Walmart said none of the workers at the Ontario location joined the protest.

California state Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) and Rep. Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) were on hand to support the protesters and made some brief comments.

Some protesters carried signs with the message "25k," the annual wage they say they want from their employers. Some of the protesters were part-timers at the warehouses where they work, which are contracted by Wal-Mart.

One man, Anthony Goytia, said he earns $9.60 an hour as a part-time employee but wants full-time employment.

He said his bosses were disrespectful to him and provided unsafe working conditions such as boxes stacked unsafely in the stocking area that could fall on passersby.

The protest was scheduled to continue until 8 a.m.


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Times staff writer Andrea Chang contributed to this report.

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