Occupy protestors march on the doors of Roseville Walmart during Black Friday

Roseville police resolve store, protestor impass
By: Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor
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Shoppers hoping to get some big ticket deals Friday morning at the Walmart on Pleasant Grove Boulevard were met by a surprise — chanting, sign-wielding protestors who marched on the store and were positioned in one of its doorways.

A number of the demonstrators identified themselves as members of the Occupy movement, asking shoppers to take their business elsewhere until Walmart started paying its employees what they termed “a livable wage.”

The Roseville Police Department was called to the scene as managers demanded the protestors exit the property.

The demonstration began at the corner of Highland Drive and Pleasant Grove Boulevard. One of the men waving signs was Thomas Holden, a former Walmart employee. Holden said he was forced to live with his mother when he worked for the retail giant since his pay could not support rent and food.

“It was just enough money to buy unnecessary things, but not enough to live on,” Holden remembered. “Plus I got hit three different times in the parking lot by cars while handling carts … the management didn’t really care.”

Andy Konn was another protestor who marched on the store.

“I’m here because Walmart pays unfair salaries,” he said. “The highest paid employees in management make about $21,000 a year, and the average worker makes around $15,000. That’s not a livable wage. If they want benefits, it takes up about 70 percent of their salary. Basically, Walmart is a company that forces its employees to go on Medicare and food stamps by virtue of the salaries it chooses to pay.”

Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia spoke to the Press Tribune in late October about the controversy surrounding her company when United Food and Commercial Workers launched a picket line against the new Walmart Neighborhood Market in Granite Bay. Garcia argued that California customers have clearly spoken on the subject of Walmart with their wallets. She also said Walmart is a major job creator, employing 73,000 Californians, is ranked high on inner-company promotions and pays “some of the most competitive salaries in retail.”

The protestors disagree. Around 7:50 a.m., 14 members of the group marched past the main entrance to Sam’s Club before gathering at the front doors of the neighboring Walmart center.

A Walmart assistant manager engaged in a cordial conversation with the occupiers and strongly urged them to take their demonstration to the parking lot of the nearby Chick-Fil-A restaurant. When the protestors refused, the store’s head manager called the Roseville Police Department.

As the demonstrators mustered at the front doors of Walmart, they were cheered by cars driving by, waving and honking in support. They were also jeered by several Walmart customers, one of whom loudly shouted, “Get a life!”

By 8:15, three Roseville police units had arrived on the scene. An officer approached the demonstrators to inform them they were on private property and that Walmart’s manager was officially demanding they leave the premises. The officer suggested the protestors move their demonstration back to the corner of Highland Drive and Pleasant Grove Boulevard, noting it would avert arrests and that the corner was a high-visibility area where countless motorists would see their signs. After a brief collective discussion, the occupiers agreed, marching back to the corner.