Ex-employees protest alleged discrimination at Wal-Mart

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Former Natchez Wal-Mart employees claiming racial discrimination and harassment by management took their message to the streets Wednesday in an attempt to deter shoppers from buying at the store.

A handful of picketers staked out the middle entrance to the store’s parking lot off Seargent S. Prentiss Drive, holding posters that urged shoppers to boycott the store.

&uot;Keep your money in your pocket,&uot; stated one poster. &uot;These people at Wal-Mart h(ave) plantation mentality.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

Another poster highlighted a racial slur, which the picketers said was used against a black female employee by store manager, Dennis Brewer.

Melissa Griffin, a picketer who was recently terminated by Wal-Mart, said she realizes the poster’s wording was inflammatory, &uot;but if (Brewer) said it, and it’s true, we should tell the public,&uot; she said.

Brewer was unavailable for comment Wednesday, and store management deferred all questions to Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas.

&uot;There is absolutely no truth to (the picketers’ claims) whatsoever,&uot; said Jessica Moser, Wal-Mart public relations.

&uot;If there is one thing we value, it’s our associates,&uot; she said, adding that Wal-Mart takes claims of racial discrimination very seriously.

Moser said she believes the small number of picketers points to the claims’ lack of validity.

&uot;Just look at how many believe in what they’re saying enough to go out and join them,&uot; she said.

The demonstration follows a similar incident last week, when a small number of handbills carrying the same message were placed on Wal-Mart customers’ parked vehicles.

At that time, store co-manager Joel Hewitt said the handbills were the work of a disgruntled employee who had recently been terminated.

Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff said he issued a permit to Leon Howard for the demonstrations on the grounds of &uot;informational picketing.&uot;

The permit is valid for daylight hours through Nov. 24

Howard could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Teddy Wilson, an employee at a Wal-Mart distribution center who was shopping at the Natchez store Wednesday, said saw the posters on the way into the parking lot, but could not slow down enough to read them.

Originally from Chicago, Wilson said racism is just as prevalent in the North, but not as outright.

&uot;This is where (racism) originated,&uot; he said.

Bob Mathis, a Tennessee resident passing through on Thanksgiving holiday, said the posters did not alter his attitudes toward Wal-Mart.

&uot;No, because it goes on everywhere,&uot; he said. &uot;But I still don’t agree with it.&uot;