ORLANDO, Fla. - U.S. Rep.-elect Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) joined a Walmart worker as she walked off her job in St. Cloud as part of a nationwide protest against the country's largest employer.
Grayson joined Walmart associate Lisa Lopez on Thanksgiving night to protest what employees says is the store's retaliation against workers who speak out for better job conditions.
On "Black Friday," Grayson also joined a walkout at a Walmart in Orlando.
Union-backed groups OUR Walmart and Making Change at Wal-Mart, along with watchdog group Corporate Action Network, are calling on the retailer to end what they call retaliation against employees who speak out for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care.
The planned walkouts build on an October protest that started at a Walmrt in Los Angeles and spread to stores in 12 other cities. More than 100 workers joined the October actions.
Walmart has said the protesters make up just a handful of its 1.3-million-strong workforce.
Among some workers -- and customers -- a source of controversy was the store's earlier opening time. Walmarts across the county opened Thanksgiving night for "Black Friday" sales.
"They shouldn't do this anymore -- it's horrible," said Kayla Edwell, 45, of Pittsburgh. "Let people spend time with their families."
Edwell was there along with her mother to do Christmas shopping, in the market for Xbox games and remote-control cars.
"As long as people come, they'll do this, and it's hard not to come if you can get some good prices," her mother, Shirley Edwell, said.
Zach Mullenax, 23, was in better spirits, calling the earlier opening time "excellent."
"It's more convenient," he said. "I don't have to wake up at 3:00 in the morning."
As for the employees, one expressed frustration at the earlier opening, saying, "It's Thanksgiving. I don't have to say any more."
But another said it wasn't an issue, taking a more fatalistic approach.
"Even when we opened on Black Friday, you'd have to come here Thursday night," he said. "All the stores are doing it, and if people are going out, you might as well stay open."
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