A Maryland judge barred Walmart protesters on Tuesday from company property in advance of widespread demonstrations planned for Black Friday.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul Harris also ordered activists to post a $10,000 bond, which they would forfeit if they violate the injunction before the trespassing case brought by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in September goes to trial.
"This is yet another move from Walmart to try to bend the law to its liking. Walmart has made it a practice to pursue over-the-top legal maneuvers to try to avoid hearing the real concerns of workers and community members," said Derrick Plummer, spokesman for the organizer, Making Change at Walmart, in a statement.
About 1,500 demonstrations were scheduled to occur nationwide on Friday, including at Walmarts in Towson and Arbutus. Plummer said activities planned for Black Friday would go forward, but declined to say where.
Tuesday's order follows months of activity — including protests staged Tuesday at stores in Columbia, Laurel and Hyattsville — in which participants in the Making Change at Walmart campaign called on the low-cost retail giant to increase starting full-time salaries of $25,000, offer more workers full-time hours and stop retaliating against employees who speak out.
Harris found that the protests have hurt the company's reputation, sales and shopping experience.
"This isn't just a case of accidentally being on the wrong side of the property line. This is a case of going into stores, being disruptive," said a Wal-Mart spokesman, Kory Lundberg.
"We certainly respect the right of people with differing opinions to express those opinions, but what the unions are doing clearly goes beyond what the law allows," he said.
The injunction applies to members of the main groups supporting the anti-Walmart campaign, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), as well as to others involved in their protest effort. The order does not apply to Walmart employees.
Judges in four other states also issued restraining orders against the UFCW, Lundberg said. Harris' order also restricts activity that disrupts access to the stores, even if it does not occur on Walmart property.
"I know I have the right to strike and the right to speak out," said Tiffany Beroid, 29, of Laurel, a customer service manager in Laurel who went on strike Tuesday and said she planned to protest on Friday. "I will utilize my rights and continue to strike until the things that we're fighting for are met."
Beroid said she made $12,000 a year while working full-time at Walmart's store in Laurel and this year, decided to cut back her hours because she did not make enough to afford child care for her two children, ages 8 and 1.
"What made me want to be part of the strike was they do pay low wages," she said in an interview Tuesday after protests staged at the Dobbin Road store in Columbia, a store in Laurel and the Walmart in Hyattsville's Capital Mall.
Plummer did not have an estimate of how many people or employees were participating in Tuesday's protests.
"Some people are not going to be happy no matter what and just want to stir things up," said Gloria Keech, 56, of Hanover, a personnel training coordinator at Walmart's Laurel store who has worked for the company for 10 years. "I've never had any problems."
On Nov. 18, the National Labor Relations Board found that stores in 13 states, including Maryland, had "unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees" for taking part in protests.