LAS VEGAS – An estimated 600,000 Nevada shoppers hit stores on Black Friday while others used the day to make a point on behalf of the retail workers who stocked the shelves and rang up the purchases.
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Members of the AFL-CIO delivered letters to managers of seven Las Vegas-area Wal-Mart stores, arguing that owners are making a hefty profit and can afford to raise their workers' wages to $15 an hour and give them full-time schedules.
"When you hear workers' calls for '$15 and full time,' instead of threatening, disciplining, or firing workers who stand up, why not give them access to full-time hours and a paycheck that can support a family?" the letter said.
One store manager turned away a group of demonstrators as they tried to read the letter aloud, according to AFL-CIO spokeswoman Rachel Rekowski, who went to three of the Wal-Marts. Two other managers let them read the statement in its entirety.
Elsewhere in the country, protesters picketed Wal-Mart stores. In downtown Chicago, about 100 demonstrators chanted slogans such as "Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart, you're no good! Treat your workers like you should."
Wal-Mart responded by saying many demonstrators are paid by the union to protest and don't represent the sentiments of the company's 1.3 million workers.
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"The reality is that Walmart is focused every day on providing our associates with opportunities for job growth," spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said in a statement.
In Nevada, shoppers were projected to spend $238 million on Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.
The Retail Association of Nevada made the prediction based on retail trends and a survey conducted by Bankrate.com. The website estimated that 28 percent of consumers nationwide would shop the day after Thanksgiving and would spend $399 per person.
The major shopping occasion has simmered down in recent years as retailers extend sales beyond a single day.
More consumers are getting deals on Thanksgiving Day or earlier or taking advantage of Cyber Monday sales from online stores, said Bryan Wachter, senior vice president of the retail association.
"Retailers are looking for an opportunity to attract more consumers who may not want to fight the crowds on the biggest shopping day of the year," Wachter said.