A Walmart walkout has spread to 15 cities as workers unhappy with low wages and poor working conditions lashed out at the retail giant.
The demonstrations took place Thursday, with strikers calling for better wages and the chance to organize. A press release sent by organizers of the Walmart walkout said workers were "emboldened by national attention on low-wage economics and Walmart's inaction," adding that "frustrations are building."
Organizers said the Walmart walkout shares the same sentiment that led fast food workers to strike in recent weeks. In August fast food workers in more than 50 US cities protested against the restaurant chains that have allowed wages to stagnate for years. The workers are demanding the right to organize and wages of $15 an hour, up from the $9 an hour these workers now average.
The protest hit the largest fast food chains, including McDonald's and Burger King.
"What the workers are trying to do is hold the corporations accountable," said Mary Kay Henry, SEIU president.
The Walmart walkout also calls on the retail chain to improve conditions for workers. Walmart has been accused of retaliating against workers who attempt to organize. OurWalmart, a union-backed members group, said more than 100 labor practice charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board against Walmart.
The charges include some employees who were fired for going on strike against Walmart.
The Walmart walkout has some backing in Washington. Congressman Keith Ellison has called the retail chain's actions against protesters "completely unjust and illegal." John Logan, director of labor studies at San Francisco State University, said Walmart is "a poster child for everything that is wrong with US labor law and employment relations."
"The workers terminated by Walmart may eventually get justice, but the NLRB's processes are notoriously slow – it sometimes seems to move at glacial speed – and its remedies for unfair management practices are extremely weak," Logan said. "Walmart has consistently used legal and illegal practices to silence employees who dare to speak out."
The Walmart walkout included a march planned for Los Angeles and another rally outside the Four Seasons hotel in San Francisco, where Walmart board member and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has a penthouse apartment.