Labor issues continue to plague Wal-Mart

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 151 views 

The nation’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., has become synonymous with ongoing labor disputes largely fueled by union-funded groups over allegations of low wages and efforts to keep workers from protesting and staging strikes.

Earlier this week, the National Labor Relations Board detailed its investigation relating to Wal-Mart’s retaliation against workers who went on strike and staged protests at stores sites during Thanksgiving Day 2012.

The NLRB, which is tasked to protect the rights of workers who organize for better working conditions, said Wal-Mart illegally threatened "reprisal" against workers who protested on Nov. 22, 2012. The federal agency said it’s ready to file a case against Wal-Mart if a settlement is not reached in the next two weeks. Any settlement would have to either give the fired workers their jobs back, or compensate workers who have been disciplined.

The Office of the General Counsel found merit to alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act against Wal-Mart, as follows:

• During two national television news broadcasts and in statements to employees at Walmart stores in California and Texas, Wal-Mart unlawfully threatened employees with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests on Nov. 22, 2012.

• Wal-Mart stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests.

• Wal-Mart stores in California, Florida, Missouri and Texas unlawfully threatened, surveilled, disciplined, and/or terminated employees in anticipation of or in response to employees’ other protected concerted activities.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said the company is looking into its next steps and will make a decision very soon.

"We take this very seriously. We believe our actions were legal and justified," she said.

About 117 workers were either fired or disciplined for participating in the last year’s strike on Thanksgiving Day.

Also in the same report, the NLRB said the General Counsel found no merit in the following alleged violations by Wal-Mart.
• Wal-Mart stores in Illinois and Texas did not interfere with their employees’ right to strike by telling large groups of non-employee protestors to move from Wal-Mart’s property to public property, pursuant to a lawful Solicitation and Distribution policy, where the groups contained only a small number of employees who either did not seek to stay on Wal-Mart’s property or were permitted to remain without non-employee protesters.

• Wal-Mart stores in California and Washington did not unlawfully change work schedules, disparately apply their policies, or otherwise coerce employees in retaliation for their exercise of statutory rights.

In the past year, Wal-Mart has come out aggressively allowing its workers to speak directly to the media on several occasions as the retailer seeks to tell it’s own story about employment opportunities. This is an about face from the story being told by union-backed groups like OUR Walmart.

On Monday (Nov. 18), Wal-Mart broadcast a multi-city town hall meeting that featured 350 employee promotions.

Wal-Mart said it is on track to promote 160,000 employees across the country this year, including more than 25,000 promotions between November and the end of January.