The National Labor Relations Board Office of General Counsel on January 15 issued an unfair labor practices complaint against Walmart, charging the retail giant with illegally firing, disciplining, and/or retaliating against 117 workers who were seeking change at Walmart through collective action.
According to a media statement released by the NLRB, “The National Labor Relations Act guarantees the right of private sector employees to act together to try to improve their wages and working conditions with or without a union.”
The complaint grew out of efforts by Walmart to silence workers active in Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR), a nationwide group of thousands of Walmart workers fighting for better pay, benefits, and working conditions and a collective voice in matters that affect their jobs.
“Walmart thinks it can scare us with attacks to keep us from having a real conversation about the poverty wages we’re paid,” said Barbara Collins a fired Walmart worker from Placerville, California, one of the workers named in the complaint. “But too much is at stake—the strength of our economy and the security of our families—to stay silent about why Walmart needs to improve jobs. Now the federal government is confirming what we already know: we have the right to speak out, and Walmart fired me and my coworkers illegally. With a new CEO taking over in a few weeks, we hope that Walmart will take a new direction in listening to associates and the country in the growing calls to improve jobs.”
The NLRB complaint identifies violations in 34 stores in 13 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. More than 60 Walmart supervisors and one corporate officer are named in the complaint.
The complaint grew out of Walmart’s stepped up activity to silence workers after their 2012 Black Friday protests, which included strikes and demonstrations at Walmart stores throughout the US.
Some of the workers who participated in the Black Friday protests or who were active in the OUR organizing campaign were fired or punished in other ways after the the protests.
The NLRB complaint finds that Walmart store managers threatened workers with firing if they participated in strikes or protests, disciplined workers for engaging in strikes and protests, and fired workers for taking collective action to improve working conditions.
The struggle of Walmart workers has been one of the defining elements of the growing movement of low-wage workers for a living wage.
“Walmart workers are bravely leading the national movement to end low wage work,” said Bill Fletcher Jr., chairman of the Retail Justice Alliance. “Walmart is a major driver of the widening income inequality gap with its low wages that set the standard for retail jobs. We cannot get our economy moving again when the largest employer breaks federal law in an effort to keep wages down. Walmart needs to start following the law and improve jobs by paying workers a living wage.”
“Walmart workers like me are calling for better jobs for all Americans,” said Colby Harris, a fired worker from Lancaster, TX. “It’s not right that so many of us are struggling to get by on less than $25,000 a year while the Waltons (the family that owns more than 50 percent of Walmart’s stock) have more wealth than 42% of American families combined.”
The NLRB announced in November that it would be filing a complaint against Walmart but held off on doing so in hopes that it could reach a settlement with the company.
It issued the complaint after settlement discussions were unsuccessful.
Walmart must respond to the complaint by January 28. No date has been set for a hearing on the complaint.
The NLRB said that it has issued other complaints involving Walmart and that other charges involving the company are under investigation.
In Kentucky, an earlier complaint against Walmart has been resolved.
Aaron Lawson of Louisville, Kentucky was fired after he passed out flyers and spoke out publicly for change at Walmart. As part of the settlement, Walmart agreed to rehire Lawson and provide full back wages for the time that he was out of work.