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Actions of Wal-Mart catch the eye of NLRB

Wal-Mart shoppers in California may have heard that the megastore chain has a reputation for being anti-union. However, the National Labor Relations Board recently escalated the fight by charging the Arkansas-based retailer with wrongful termination over employees being fired, allegedly for protesting their wages and their working conditions. Named in the complaint were 61 supervisors and executives.

The company saw its first-ever prolonged strikes during a 10-day period in 2013, when employees in 13 states walked off the job to protest conditions in the stores where they worked. The NLRB said that a company officer had previously appeared on national television and threatened employees if they engaged in activities similar to union activity. Wal-Mart is also alleged to have required store managers to read aloud to employees a corporate memo stating that the company did not believe what it called "union-orchestrated hit-and-run" activities to be legally protected. The retailer advised workers that time spent striking would be considered as unexcused absences from work, and in May 2013 instituted an official policy to that effect.

These threats of reprisals are contrary to provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, which give employees in the private sector the right to group together to improve their working conditions, whether a union is involved or not. The agency's action cited 60 employees being disciplined for these protests including 19 who lost their jobs.

No private company has the right to suppress workers' ability to assemble and improve their own working conditions. Wrongful discharge, bad performance reviews and other forms of retaliation are against federal and state laws and can be the subject of litigation.

Source: Courthouse News, "NLRB Bites Back After Wal-Mart Strike Firings", Lorriane Bailey, January 17, 2014

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