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NLRB alleges worker rights violations against Wal-Mart

The general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint Wednesday (Jan. 15) against Wal-Mart Stores alleging that more than 60 store supervisors and one corporate officer violated the rights of employees who participated in Black Friday (Nov. 22, 2012) protests at Walmart stores.

The NLRB initially asked Wal-Mart to settle the claim or risk a suit being filed in the coming weeks. Wal-Mart officials said they were looking into the next steps and would make a decision regarding the request for settlement. Also, the NLRB dismissed two of the initial complaints against Wal-Mart. However, talks about the remaining three complaints did not result in a settlement.

“The discussions have not been successful and a consolidated complaint has issued regarding some of the alleged violations of federal law,” noted the NLRB statement issued Wednesday. “More than 60 Walmart supervisors and one corporate officer are named in the complaint. Cases were consolidated to avoid unnecessary costs or delay. Walmart must respond to the complaint by January 28, 2014.”

Three violations of NLRB rules among stores in 14 states were cited.
• During two national television news broadcasts and in statements to employees at Walmart stores in California and Texas, Walmart unlawfully threatened employees with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests.

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

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

Wal-Mart has said that about 117 workers were fired or disciplined for participating in the last year’s strike on Thanksgiving Day. Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan previously told The City Wire that it acted within the law.

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

On Wednesday Buchanan continued the theme, adding that the “merits of the complaint” have not been debated and that the NLRB action “is just a procedural step.”

“Wal-Mart believes we acted respectfully and lawfully. We look forward to the opportunity to shed light on the facts,” Buchanan said Wednesday.

Sarita Gupta, executive director of the labor group Jobs With Justice, provided this media statement: "We’ve never seen a complaint against Walmart of this size or scope, and we’re glad the NLRB is taking action. Walmart’s attacks on its own employees cannot go unchecked."

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An NLRB administrative law judge will now conduct a trial based on the allegations. The judge’s findings will then be sent to the five-members of the NLRB who will vote to adopt or reject the findings.

According to the NLRB website, the federal agency handles up to 30,000 charges per year from employees, unions and employers covering a range of unfair labor practices. The NLRB is not allowed to assess penalties, but can require reinstatement, backpay and other “make-whole remedies.”

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