About 50 people braved the blustery cold Friday morning near Wal-Mart on West Kimberly Road in Davenport to pray for Wal-Mart employees who protesters said are underpaid.
Originally, the group, consisting of faith-based and union groups, planned to hold the vigil inside the store but store officials said they asked police on the scene to inform the group they had to take their protest off
Wal-Mart property, which they did.
One man began shouting obscenities at one officer. Group leaders later said that man did not represent the peaceful vigil they were attempting to conduct. “There always are some who are overzealous,” said Loxi Hopkins, of the Diocese of Davenport’s social action department.
The protest was one of a number held at stores nationwide Thursday and Friday, critical of the wages, benefits and treatment of employees of the world’s largest retailer.
The efforts seemed to do little to keep shoppers away, though — Wal-Mart said it was its best Black Friday ever.
Outside the Davenport store, prayers were recited with responses from the crowd. Among the readings was one that said how Wal-Mart “claims it helps poor people by providing low prices. And yet Wal-Mart keeps its mainstay associates poor by paying such low wages and poor benefits.”
“All we are asking is for them to be treated fairly,” said Scott Noyd, a local union representative.
A local store manager referred all media inquiries to the company’s corporate officials.
The issue is part of a broader campaign against the company’s treatment of workers that’s being waged by a union-backed group called OUR Walmart, which includes former and current workers.
Shortly after midnight, OUR Walmart said workers walked off their jobs in stores in Dallas, Miami and Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday.
For their part, retailers say they are giving shoppers what they want. Dave Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said that the discounter learned from shoppers that they want to start shopping right after Thanksgiving dinner.
Still, Tovar said that Wal-Mart works to accommodate its workers’ requests for different working hours. “We spent a lot of time talking to them, trying to figure out when would be the best time for our events,” he said.
The retailer filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board last week against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The company said that the demonstrations organized by OUR Walmart threatened to disrupt its business and intimidate customers and associates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.