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Walmart Protests Draw Hundreds Across Country

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Hundreds of people - including some employees - have taken part in Black Friday demonstrations at Walmart stores nationwide, protesting what they say is the retailer's retaliation against speaking out for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care.

CNNMoney reports that according to organizers from the union-backed group OUR Walmart, workers and supporters rallied at Walmart stores across the nation. The organizers say the protests will continue throughout the day.

One of the bigger protests occurred in Landover Hills, near Washington. Organizers said about 350 people participated, although video of the event showed around 100 participants. Dawn Le, who works for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which backs OUR Walmart, would not say how many of those taking part were Walmart employees.

Walmart, in a statement, said there were 26 protests Thursday night, when its stores opened at 8 p.m. to begin Black Friday. It estimated that fewer than 50 Walmart workers participated, and that many of the protests involved no employees at all.

Janna Pea, an OUR Walmart organizer in Dallas, said about 40 workers and about 150 supporters took part in a protest Thursday night.

One of those with her was Josue Mata, who says he walked off his job as an overnight maintenance employee to protest retaliation against people who want to speak out.

"I have four kids and I don't want them to grown up in a society where people disrespect them," he said. "This is a never-ending fight and we're never going to stop."

Mata said he plans to return to work for his next scheduled shift on Sunday evening.

Pea said her protesters went to four Walmart stores across the Dallas area, and while they were able to picket and speak to customers at half of them, they were asked to leave immediately by police at the others.

"We were still able to talk to customers and educate them about what was going on," she said. "We saw one person who was planning to go shopping, but then didn't end up going in. Instead, they rallied with us."

Muhammed Malik, who helped organize a protest at a Miami Walmart, said roughly 70 workers participated in their hour-long demonstration Thursday night. He said one worker walked off his shift as he saw others rallying outside.

Walmartt did not immediately respond for comment on OUR Walmart's participation estimates. The company has denied retaliation against protesting workers, and said Friday that it has offered special holiday discounts to its employees for their efforts this season.

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