Dem lawmakers back Wal-Mart workers

Seven Democratic lawmakers on Friday issued a statement of support for those picketing Wal-Mart to urge the company to provide higher wages. 

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The company and labor rights activists are set to square off on Black Friday, one of the busiest retail shopping days of the year. 

An estimated 1,500 protests will take place nationwide, one of the largest ever, activists say.

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) issued a statement of solidarity with the workers.

“We stand with the courageous Walmart workers who are demanding better wages and an end to illegal retaliation,” the lawmakers wrote. “Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, has a responsibility to their employees and our country to respect workers and their rights. No one should have to fear losing their jobs just for speaking up.”

United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), a subsidiary of a labor union, is helping workers organize and rally support.

The organization says the company rakes in $17 billion in profits each year and points to the $144.7 billion wealth of the Walton family, the owners of Wal-Mart. 

“With as many as 825,000 Walmart workers making less than $25,000 a year and a single Walmart store costing taxpayers nearly $1 million in public assistance, the need for change is clear,” the bicameral group of lawmakers wrote in a statement. “Taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab because Walmart refuses to pay workers a living wage.”

The business community says that the protests are organized by labor unions under false pretenses — used to increase their donor roster. 

“It is a well-choreographed, union-backed effort to increase organizing and increase collection of workers’ dues money. So in other words, it sort of shows that these guys are professionals who are behind the scenes here and it’s just this outswell of employee support,” said Jim Plunkett, director of labor law policy at the Chamber of Commerce.