NLRB Launches Prosecution Against Walmart for Violating Workers’ Rights

10988366484_168a271b2bThe National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency charged with protecting workers’ rights to collective activity, has ruled that retail giant Wal-Mart has violated the rights of striking workers. In a statement, the NLRB said Wal-Mart “unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests.”

The NLRB is pursuing multiple charges against the company, alleging it illegally retaliated against 117 employees in stores across the country. The General Counsel’s office plans to prosecute Walmart for violating the law by firing or disciplining those who engaged in legally-protected strikes. Additionally, the NLRB charges that Walmart violated the law by threatening workers that there will be consequences if they go on strike.

The incidents include last year’s “Black Friday” protests which saw workers lead rallies at more than 1,000 Wal-Mart stores and another strike this past June. The NLRB says it will pursue charges, unless Wal-Mart can reach an agreement with their workers. The group OUR Walmart is organizing a new round of “Black Friday” protests next week.

The NLRB specifically charged that Walmart spokesperson David Tovar, when he appeared on national television in November 2012, illegally threatened associates with potential disciplinary action if they engaged in job actions on Black Friday. Walmart just promoted Tovar to VP of Corporate Communications.

Sarita Gupta, Executive Director of Jobs with Justice and American Rights at Work issued the following statement in response to the NLRB’s decision:

“The Labor Board took a rare step today to pursue a nationwide complaint against Walmart. The Board’s decision to prosecute confirms that the law is catching up to the company, and underscores what Walmart associates have long known: the company is illegally trying to silence employees who speak out for better jobs.

There are reports of Walmart’s shelves going un-stocked, board members resigning, and a massive public relations campaign to repair the company’s image. But the chinks in Walmart’s armour are mounting, and the message is clear: there’s a real cost to low prices, and workers are paying the consequences.

“Americans believe that we have the responsibility – and the right – to speak out against corporate abuses of workers. 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. As the peak retail season approaches, we’re proud to stand with the working people who are asking Walmart to do right by its employees.”

For Walmart workers awaiting this NLRB decision for months, this is long-awaited vindication that they’ve been exercising their legally protected right to strike. However, the fact that it comes months after Walmart engaged in this retaliation points to the need for community allies to stand with Walmart workers who speak out. If the federal government can’t be there the moment someone is unfairly fired for going on strike or standing up, then we need community leaders to stand with those brave workers. If Walmart feels enough public pressure, the company may decide to follow the law and respect their employees’ right to collective action.