Wal-Mart reports strong sales despite scattered protests

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, reported its best Black Friday ever for sales despite organized protests against the company in Miami, Dallas, San Francisco and elsewhere Friday.

Spokespeople at Making Change at Wal-Mart could not say whether labor actions were planned at Dayton-area Wal-Mart stores or how widespread events were, but some people handed out pro-labor leaflets at the Wal-Mart at West Dorothy Lane and South Dixie Drive on Friday morning.

Organized labor activity wasn’t evident in visits to other area Wal-Mart stores Friday afternoon.

Wal-Mart said it processed nearly 10 million register transactions and almost 5,000 items per second during a four-hour period starting at 8 p.m. Thursday.

“We had very safe and successful Black Friday events at our stores across the country and heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers,” Bill Simon, Wal-Mart president and chief executive, said in a statement.

Simon said 26 protests occurred at stores Thursday night and “many of them did not include any Wal-Mart associates.”

In response to a request from the Dayton Daily News, a Wal-Mart spokesman Friday released a separate statement that downplayed the labor organization’s claims.

“The number of protests being reported by the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) are grossly exaggerated,” the statement said.”

It wasn’t clear whether there was a relationship between the Making Change at Wal-Mart and OUR Wal-Mart groups.

Dawn Le, a spokeswoman for Making Change at Wal-Mart, declined to respond to the company’s statement. Asked if she could estimate how many workers walked off the job nationwide, Le said: “The numbers are still coming in. People are still walking off.”

Le said a “caravan” of people bringing attention to the issues that concern her organization started visiting southwestern Ohio stores, beginning with a store on Colerain Avenue in the Cincinnati area at 6 a.m. Friday. She couldn’t offer more details on that, referring to a conference call the organization planned.

During the call, a woman who did not identify herself said there were “strikes” against Wal-Mart in 100 cities nationwide. “It’s a very exciting day,” she said.

Those participating in the call said employees sought more hours, a steady work schedule and equitable treatment.

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