Walmart workers begin picketing stores

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Walmart workers have begun striking.

Union organizers say that employees were set to walk picket lines in Tampa, Miami, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area.

At a Dayton, Ohio store, Walmart worker Cynthia Brown-Elliott spoke from her cell phone while protesting outside, chanting “Respect! Now!”

Brown-Elliott, 48, from a Cincinnati Walmart, said 25 workers were picketing outside the Dayton store. The grandmother of 14 said she would travel with the group to a later protest in Cincinnati, where she says a much larger crowd is expected to gather.

A cake decorator who works in the Walmart bakery, Brown-Elliott makes $8.95 an hour. She has been with Walmart for two years and thinks she’s overworked and underpaid.

“Save money and live better?,” she said, citing the company’s advertising line. “How can you save money if you’re not making enough money? How can you you live better if you’re not paid enough?”

Brown-Elliott, who lives alone, says she brings home about $1,200 a month, but $500 goes to rent and the rest isn’t enough to live decently. While she gets some help from her children with groceries, she still needs to visit food banks.

She said she was scheduled to be off Wednesday, so she’ll take Thursday as her strike day so she can help organize other workers. She says that she alerted Walmart she would be striking through a letter supplied by the union.

The job actions are timed in conjunction with Walmart”s annual shareholder meeting, which takes place Friday in Fayetteville, Ark., near the company’s Bentonville headquarters.

When asked about Wednesday’s strikes, a Walmart spokesman said, “What we are seeing are very few, if any, people who work for Walmart participating in the activities. The union has to bus people around to different protests.”

The fight for higher wages has been a recent theme across the retail and fast-food industries. McDonald’s workers and union organizers have staged strikes, even taking protests to the annual shareholder meeting last month.

Proponents for higher wages received a shot in the arm Monday when the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.