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Walmart employees use Black Friday to fight for better working conditions

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ROELAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -

When Santino Scalici of Gladstone saw a campaign on TV about Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), he went online and joined the cause. He's not a Walmart employee, rather a Ford worker looking to be a voice for the group of Walmart workers who are not unionized.

OUR Walmart is made up of a handful of Walmart associates nationwide striking along with Americans who have signed up to support Walmart employees in their request for better pay and health care.

"There have been actions all around the United States, starting with a strike several weeks ago, building up to Black Friday," Scalici said.

Groups at Walmart locations nationwide will form on Black Friday for "informational picketing". In Kansas City, union members from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and United Auto Workers Union will be among the crowd at the Roeland Park Walmart.

Scalici said picketing groups do not know how many Walmart employees will actually strike that day and join the picket line.

In a public announcement video, Walmart associates explained why they joined the campaign.

"We work for the world's largest company and we're still not making it," one man said.

Another explained, "Because my fellow associates have to use our local food pantries."

One woman in the video who is the subject of a retaliation lawsuit against Walmart said she was illegally fired from the company after speaking out.

Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said Walmart has 1.3 million associates nationwide. Seventy-five percent of its management staff were promoted from within.

Lundberg said the average full-time hourly pay is $12.57, but the company has never broken down how much part-time employees make.

According to Lundberg, employees pay as little as $17 per pay period for health insurance, but he doesn't know exactly how expensive the plan gets.

OUR Walmart is asking the company for a minimum of $13 an hour, that's $25,000 a year. It's also asking Walmart for affordable health care for all associates, including workers in the distribution chain.

The UFCW, which wholly owns OUR Walmart, got into some legal trouble just last week after the Arkansas-based company filed a complaint against them with the National Labor Relations Board. Lundberg said the group is misrepresenting the majority of associates.

"What's significant about it is that Walmart workers have been paid historically low wages. They have to rely on government services as far as health care and food assistance, that sort of thing," Scalici said.

This year Walmart is offering its doorbuster deals two hours earlier than previous years - at 8 p.m.

The company does not anticipate any disruptions to the holiday shopping. It will staff stores with more than 1 million associates nationwide and locations will be open 24 hours as usual.

To learn more about the OUR Walmart campaign, head to forrespect.org.

Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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