The Friday afternoon rally in Sterling Heights, north of Detroit, was among a number held across the country on the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season.
Critics want the Arkansas-based retailer to pay workers at least $25,000 per year and offer more full-time jobs. A petition signed by 1,400 people was given to a Wal-Mart official outside the Sterling Heights store, said Sara Wallenfang, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO.
"I think a message needs to be sent to the company," former Wal-Mart worker Robin Edwards told the Detroit Free Press at the rally. "We're standing with the Wal-Mart workers and support them. And we're here to fight for a higher minimum wage."
The 56-year-old Edwards, of Detroit, said she stopped working for Wal-Mart about 10 years ago. The $18,000 she was making each year was not enough to live on, she said.
By increasing employee wages, Wal-Mart would give its workers more "purchasing power, create more jobs and improve the economy," organizers of Friday's rally said in a release.
Wal-Mart has been a target for protests against holiday hours. Most Wal-Mart stores are open 24 hours, but it started sales events at 6 p.m. Thursday, two hours earlier than usual.
Wal-Mart says it's received good feedback from employees about working the holiday.
About 20 of its stores across the country were targeted Friday by protesters, Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg told The Associated Press.
"By and large they just didn't involve anybody who works at the company," he said.
About 15 current Wal-Mart employees took part in the rallies at six locations, and there were no reported disruptions for customers, Lundberg added.
"We don't think this will have any impact to our overall business," he said.