Walmart files bogus legal complaint to quell strikes
On Thursday, November 15, Walmart filed a legal complaint against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The National Labor Relations Board charge is the company’s latest effort to quell the swell of organizing within its ranks.
Regarding the claim, Walmart spokesman David Tovar said in a statement obtained by Reuters: “We are taking this action now because we cannot allow the UFCW to continue to intentionally seek to create an environment that could directly and adversely impact our customers and associates. If they do, they will be held accountable."
This statement comes in direct contradiction with previous statements made by Tovar regarding the strikes. Following the initial wave of strikes in early October, Tovar told the Huffington Post, "The events that took place this week had absolutely no impact on our business whatsoever, on our ability to staff our stores adequately or serve our customers. The workers that have raised issues this week represent a very small, miniscule number of the total number of associates that work at Walmart."
Regardless of Walmart’s true position, this latest contradictory response has made no impact on its employees. OUR Walmart Member Colby Harris, of Lancaster, Texas, said the following:
Walmart is doing everything in its power to attempt to silence our voice. But nothing—not even this baseless unfair labor practice charge—will stop us from speaking out. Unfair labor is working full time and living in poverty. Unfair labor is seeing your health care premiums skyrocket year after year. Unfair labor is being denied the hours needed to support your family. Unfair labor is being punished for exercising your freedom of speech and association. Walmart workers know what unfair labor is—because we endure it every day. So until Walmart listens to our concerns, we will continue to speak out. We will continue to stand up. We will continue to demand respect.
Likewise, the UFCW was not phased by the complaint:
Walmart is grasping at straws to try to stop a groundswell of voices from associates and their supporters who are protesting the company’s unlawful attempts to silence workers. Associates are exercising their freedom to speak out in protest of Walmart’s unfair actions against their coworkers. Supporters like UFCW members, religious leaders, community members and other activists are taking action to support Walmart associates and demand the company listen to its workforce to improve working conditions. There’s nothing in the law that gives an employer the right to silence workers and citizens.
Meanwhile, experts agree that the legal claim does not hold water. “I would be very, very surprised if the board finds any substance” to Walmart’s charge, said John Logan, the director of labor and employment studies for San Francisco State University. Likewise, Wilma Liebman, a former Obama-appointed NLRB Chair, said that based on the publicly available information, “I don’t think the threshold is met” for Walmart to get its injunction. But she said that may not be Walmart’s real goal: “My guess is that what Walmart is fearful of is that this [strike] is going to work on Friday, and it’s really going to disrupt operations. So they’re trying to chill that.”
For more on the Walmart ULP, read Josh Eidelson’s piece in The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/blog/171348/walmart-asks-judge-block-historic-strikes