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(KTAR Photo/Sharon Mittelman)
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Arizona lawmakers join union protest to demand living wages from Walmart

(KTAR Photo/Sharon Mittelman)

PHOENIX — Several Arizona legislators protested alongside union members in downtown Phoenix on Monday, claiming Walmart doesn’t pay its workers a living wage.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union kicked off its 2017 Expose Walmart tour, which aims to demand higher wages for employees and better security for both workers and shoppers.

Arizona Rep. Athena Salman was among the handful of state representatives to speak at the rally, urging supporters to “demand that Walmart treat its workers with respect.”

“Pay them the wages that they deserve and the benefits that they deserve,” she said at the rally, which was held across the street from City Hall.

Workers in the national store chain do not belong to a union.

The union claimed that the chain’s failure to pay workers a living wage cost taxpayers an estimated $143.2 million in 2014, due to the welfare that workers needed to make ends meet. The welfare included services such as food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing.

“These are the employees that have to rely on government assistance, not because they want to, but because Walmart refuses to do the right thing and to pay their employees,” Arizona Rep. Isela Blanc said.

“They frankly don’t care about their employees, and that’s why they continue to take advantage and abuse.”

Arizona Rep. Mark Cardenas was another state representative who spoke during the tour.

He claimed the retail giant did not have enough security to prevent crimes committed near and around its stores, which ties up police departments.

“If you ask any person…what grocery store are you going to go to, they’ll say Fry’s, they’ll say Safeway, because the Walmart there, they feel that they’re going to get shot,” Cardenas said.

In a statement, Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia said the retailer is taking steps to curtail crime around its stores.

“We’re investing in people and technology to support our stores, including the use of off-duty police officers and third-party security,” the statement read. “We’re encouraged by a 35 percent reduction in calls to law enforcement agencies nationwide, on average, since we began implementing restorative justice and other crime deterrence programs.”

The 2017 Expose Walmart tour will end at Walmart’s annual meeting June 2 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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