US workers seeking higher pay have staged demonstrations across the country targeting the global retail giant Walmart, on the same day Americans traditionally start their holiday shopping.
For the third straight year, hundreds of workers demonstrated on Friday outside thousands of locations of Walmart, accusing the US largest private employer of paying wages below living standards.
Al Jazeera?s Tom Ackerman, reporting from Washington DC, said demonstrators were demanding a $15 an hour wage.
The US federal government requires a baseline of $7.25 hourly wage, although the actual wage depends on each state.
With gross profits of $130-bn in 2014, Walmart has been a ripe target for the movement to pass living wage laws across the US, he said.
Demonstrators said that even working full-time, Walmart employees need government subsidies to make ends meet, while the companies owners enjoy huge profits.
According to the Forbes magazine, the publicly-listed company?s largest stockholders include members of the Walton family, who are all listed as the world?s wealthiest individuals collectively worth an estimated $150-bn.
?I work 40 hours a week and per year I haven?t made over $25,000 so I?m still relying on government assistance,? Melinda Gaino, a Walmart worker, told Al Jazeera.
Ned Measel, a Walmart stocker, meanwhile said that despite working 40 hours a week, he is not earning enough to pay his rent.
?I can?t get my car fixed, I wait for shut-off notices from utilities before I can pay them,? he said.
Walmart blamed one union for the demonstrations.
?In several states the courts have restricted the protests and ordered union operatives not to set foot in the stores,? Al Jazeera?s Ackerman said.
Walmart has responded with a high-profile public relations campaign of its own to counter an image of exploiting workers stuck in dead-end jobs.
While the protesters marched outside, the company provided a few workers inside to help give the news media its side of the story.
At most, only a few hundred of Walmart?s 1.4 million employees were expected to stay away from work as part of this year?s protest, making limited impact on the Black Friday, when millions of Americans flock to the malls to shop.
Those who did join in the demonstration said they fear the company would retaliate by telling them not to bother coming back.
Since 2005, Black Friday has held the crown for the top sales day of the year in the US, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 70,000 stores globally.
Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, said Black Friday sales will be in the $9-bn range.
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