February 5, 2013

Jobs With Justice

Organizing on the Edge of being Fired

Lisa Lopez is a deli associate for Walmart in Central Florida. Last November, as Walmart associates across the country walked off the job on Black Friday to protest Walmart’s unfair labor practices, Lopez was the only worker to walk out at her store. But she was joined by community allies – many mobilized by Central Florida Jobs with Justice – including Congressman Alan Grayson.

Walmart was quick to retaliate. Two weeks later on December 5, her floor manager called her in for a “coaching”—Walmart’s term for a disciplinary meeting with a supervisor.

“Once I realized it was a coaching, I asked to have another associate come in to sit with me,” said Lopez. Company policy permits for one associate to have another join them during a coaching. “He said no. Then he asked me to sign a document saying I’d been coached.”

Lopez was being punish for failing to complete a minor task on the job, a common occurrence in understaffed stores. When she refused to sign the document acknowledging the disciplinary action, the manager pulled out an already signed version. Lopez demanded a copy of the forgery and was refused again. When she insisted that the store manager show her the room’s security video to prove she never signed the document, he claimed it was too blurry to tell.

Later, Walmart management wrote Lopez up for cutting her finger in the deli, and most recently on January 30th she was written up for wearing earrings that , according to the Walmart associate dress code, are well within regulation for associates to wear.

“I feel harassed. But I’m here to stand up. We can all do this together,” Lopez told a roaring audience of national and community allies.

Lisa Lopez now has a “D-Day” label on her record at Walmart, a term that essentially means she could be fired at any moment. But she’s still in Washington, DC this week with the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) to talk to her legislators about employer retaliation and how to end it.

“Other associates in my store are watching me to see what happens. But they’re on my side,” said an enthusiastic Lopez. “Next time, I won’t be the only one to walk out.”

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