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Protest supports equal rights for workers

Members Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice were picketing support Walmart workers near Walmart AurorButterfield Kirk Roads Friday November 23 2012.

Members of Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice were picketing in support of Walmart workers near the Walmart in Aurora at Butterfield and Kirk Roads Friday, November 23, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 26, 2012 6:33AM

AURORA — When it came to finding the best deals on Friday, Mary Shesgreen wasn’t interested in door busters or bargains. Instead, Shesgreen, and other members of Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice stood outside a Walmart store in Aurora with protest signs in hand.

“We’re here in solidarity with the Walmart associates. If they want community support, they’ve got it with us,” the Elgin resident said.

Standing near the entrance to the Super Walmart at Kirk and Butterfield roads, about 15 protesters gathered to show their support of employees, and their detest for the conditions many are working under.

“This is a day when Walmart makes a whole lot of money. They encourage consumers in frenzied shopping,” a bundled-up Shesgreen said. “We are outraged by Walmart’s practices.”

Protesters, like Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice co-chair John Laesch of Aurora, said that the $8.81 per hour wage employees are paid makes it impossible to live without government support.

“It used to be if you worked 40 hours a week, you could support a family,” he said.

But that’s no longer the case for Walmart workers, and shoppers must be aware of the conditions the employees endure, he said.

“The majority of Walmart workers are using some sort of government assistance,” he claimed.

To Shesgreen, the public shouldn’t be subsidizing wages that should be increased from the get-go. Giving workers only enough hours to be considered part-time, which she said is a common practice, means that the government has to step up to provide health insurance workers could be receiving form their employers.

“We are subsidizing Walmart while they make massive profits,” she said. “They pay their workers very low wages at every stage of the supply chain…. They are so big, that by keeping their massive amount of workers in poverty, they are hurting the economy.”

So, waving signs that read, “Boycott Walmart,” and “Walmart workers pay high prices,” a group of protesters from St. Charles, Batavia, Geneva, Elgin and Aurora took their stand.

The group spent the day in Joliet, Elgin and Aurora, informing consumers of the fight for equality and fair working conditions.

“We hope that Black Friday is a turning point,” Shesgreen said.

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