WASHINGTON - The National Labor Relations Board General Counsel is issuing a decision today to prosecute Walmart for its widespread violations of its workers' rights. The decision will provide additional protection for Walmart's 1.3 million employees when they are speaking out for better jobs at the country's largest employer.
The Board will prosecute Walmart's illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June, according to the decision.
The decision addresses threats by managers and the company's national spokesperson for discouraging workers from striking and for taking illegal disciplinary actions against workers who were on legally protected strikes. Workers could be awarded back pay, reinstatement and the reversal of disciplinary actions through the decision; and Walmart could be required to inform and educate all employees of their legally protected rights.
"The Board's decision confirms what Walmart workers have long known: the company is illegally trying to silence employees who speak out for better jobs," said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs With Justice and American Rights at Work. "Americans believe that we have the responsibility - and the right - to speak out against corporate abuses of workers, and this proves we're finally being heard, and making kinks in Walmart's armor. Customers, clergy and community members from across the country are standing with Walmart workers bravely calling for better jobs and a stronger economy for all of us."
Today's decision addresses charges filed one year ago in advance of Black Friday 2012, when Walmart managers escalated their efforts to threaten and discourage workers from going on legally protected strikes. David Tovar, spokesperson for the company, even went so far as to threaten workers on national television, saying "there would be consequences" for workers who did not come in for scheduled shifts on Black Friday.
Additionally, the decisional covers the illegal firings and disciplinary actions that occurred after 100 striking Walmart workers took their concerns to the company's June shareholder meeting in Bentonville. Support from investors, Walmart workers and the general public continued to grow after tens of thousands of shareholders heard from OUR Walmart members at the company's annual shareholder meeting.
When these workers returned to work, Walmart systematically fired and disciplined them despite their legally recognized, protected absences. This included disciplinary action against at least 43 workers and the firing of at least another 23 worker-leaders.
"Working at the largest employer in the country should mean making a decent living. Those days are long gone," said Tiffany Beroid, a Walmart worker from Laurel, MD. "Walmart continues to show that it's afraid to have real conversations about creating better jobs, but would rather scare us into silence. But change at Walmart is too important to our economy and for our families for us to stop speaking out."
Prior to the extended strike in June, American Rights at Work/Jobs with Justice released a white paper documenting Walmart's extensive and systematic efforts to silence associates. At that time, there were more than 150 incidents in stores across the country, with few signs that Walmart would soon stop targeting those who speak out and act collectively.
In other labor charges against Walmart, workers have been winning. In California alone, the National Labor Relations Board recently decided to prosecute Walmart for 11 violations of federal labor law from some threats made around Black Friday last year.
In Kentucky, one settlement was reached between Walmart and Aaron Lawson in which Walmart fired Lawson after he distributed flyers and spoke out against the company's attempts to silence those who called for better wages and consistent hours. As part of the settlement, Walmart agreed to rehire Lawson and provide full back wages for the time that he was out of work.
Photo: Mel Evans/AP