SCARBOROUGH — A small group of protesters demonstrated outside the Wal-Mart store in Scarborough on Friday as part of a nationwide campaign waged by labor unions on one of the busiest shopping days to pressure the mega-retailer to increase employee wages and benefits.

The roughly 25 people briefly chanted pro-labor slogans while handing out fliers to any Black Friday shoppers who would take them before Scarborough police, acting at the request of store managers, asked the group to relocate to the road in front of the store. Several demonstrators were also told to leave the store interior while trying to distribute fliers and cards to both shoppers and Wal-Mart employees.

The demonstrators slowly dispersed after a series of calm conversations between police and protest organizers.

“If Wal-Mart can afford to make a big profit, Wal-Mart can afford to pay their workers so that they don’t need welfare,” Wayne Poland, a retiree from Windham who serves as secretary treasurer of the Southern Maine Labor Council, said as he stood outside the store entrance.

“It’s just incredible that you can have the richest family in the country and they are not paying workers enough to get by on,” Poland said, referring to the Walton family, which Forbes recently ranked as No. 1 on the list of wealthiest American families, with an estimated worth of $152 billion.

The Scarborough protest was one of an estimated 1,600 demonstrations outside Wal-Mart stores across the country that were organized by labor unions increasingly critical of the Arkansas-based retailer. The demonstrators are calling on the company to pay workers $15 an hour, improve benefits and provide employees with more consistent hours and access to a full-time work schedule.

Company spokesman Kory Lundberg pointed out that despite the demonstrators’ claims to represent Wal-Mart employees, no workers at the Scarborough store participated in the local protest. Lundberg also claimed that fewer than 50 of the company’s 1.3 million employees nationwide had participated in similar demonstrations.

Lundberg declined to provide specific figures but said the majority of the company’s employees already work full time and that the average wage was $12.94 an hour.

Several of those who gathered in Scarborough on Friday were FairPoint workers who have been on strike for more than 40 days in a contract dispute with company managers with few signs that the deadlock will end anytime soon.

One striking FairPoint worker, Patrick Shane of Vinalhaven, said he believes there is increasing awareness in the public about what he described as a Wall Street vs. Main Street battle for fair wages and benefits. Shane said he joined Friday’s protest in Scarborough because “if Wal-Mart workers are going to make more, then all workers are going to make more.”

In a statement posted on the company’s website, Wal-Mart’s senior director for corporate communications, Brooke Buchanan, suggested that many of the protesters around the country were “paid union demonstrators” and that fewer employees – or “associates” in company lingo – had called out Friday than on a typical work day.

“That tells us our associates are excited to be there for our customers at this special time, and they are not joining in made-for-TV demonstrations in any meaningful way,” Buchanan said. “Our associates do an absolutely incredible job on Black Friday, and we won’t let anyone try to distract from the credit our associates deserve for their hard work.”

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