Twenty-one demonstrators, including nine former or current Walmart employees, were arrested while protesting against the company at Thursday’s rally in downtown Los Angeles, according to CNN Money.
Hundreds rallied in the morning at Pershing Square in support of Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart, a national group of associates organizing for better and improved working conditions.
The rally was one of many across the country sparked by 60 employees who claimed they were fired as punishment for striking against the company. Thursday’s events were a response to Walmart ignoring the demands of OUR Walmart, which were to be met by Labor Day.
“We’re here to call on the reinstatement of Walmart workers that were retaliated on for speaking out,” said Anthony Goytia, a Duarte Walmart employee. “We have the right to stand up to our employers and say that they’re not treating us right. Walmart, you’re not treating us right.”
The group then marched to the gates of Chinatown on West Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, stopping along the way for additional speeches. Once at the gates, demonstrators sat on the road in protest against the opening of a new Walmart nearby.
Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman claimed the demonstrations, despite the attendance of Walmart employees, were not an accurate representation of the company’s workforce.
“Walmart will continue to serve our customers in more than 4,600 locations today,” he said. “A handful of union-orchestrated media stunts made up of primarily union members and activists don’t represent the views of the vast majority of the 1.3 million associates who work for Walmart.”
Jovani Gomez was fired from the Walmart in Lakewood two weeks after returning from a 10-day protest in Arkansas. Gomez was a sales assoiate for five years and said he was fired specifically for the days he was absent.
“I am still here fighting for my coworkers,” he said to the crowd.
Among the protestors employed by the company was Denise Barlage. For the past seven years, she’s had to fight constantly just to get 35 hours of work a week.
“People are always fighting for their hours, especially full-timers like myself,” she said. “They’re always trying to cut us back and I know down the line they will start cutting more and more as they build more and more stores.”
City Councilmen Gil Cedillo and Curren Price supported the rally and each spoke to the crowd. Price emphasized how improving the conditions for families would help the economy as a whole, while Cedillo highlighted the growing gap between the rich and poor.
“As we live today in the greatest divide between wealth and poverty since the Great Depression, the only way to fight is to organize,” Cedillo said, standing in the middle of the street.
The 21 arrests in L.A. were the highest among the cities that held protests Thursday.