The National Labor Relations Board announced Nov. 18 its intent to prosecute the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, for violating labor law in dealings with employees in 14 states, including Minnesota.
The charges come after an investigation of employees’ charges that Walmart threatened, disciplined or even fired them for participating in legally protected protests and organizing activities, including strikes in California and Texas on Black Friday last year.
According to the worker-advocacy organization OUR Walmart, the retailer has fired or disciplined more than 65 workers for taking part in a wave of extended strikes across the nation over the last year.
Walmart must now either reach a settlement with the NLRB on the charges – one that likely would include reinstating fired workers and removing any disciplinary actions – or face prosecution by the agency.
The Minnesota incident cited in the NLRB charges took place at the Walmart in Sauk Centre, according to Minnesota-based OUR Walmart organizer Diana Tastad.
Mike Ahles, an associate in the Sauk Centre store, joined an unfair-labor-practices strike in June, traveling to protests staged near Walmart’s corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. Two weeks after he returned to work, Ahles received a “coaching” – Walmart’s term for disciplinary action – from his manager for missing work. After three coachings, a worker can be fired.
“Mike said that he was on an unfair-labor-practices strike, that it was his federal right,” Tastad said. “So we filed charges of unfair labor practices with the (NLRB), and now the board is basically saying yes, Walmart can’t do that.”
Will the NLRB’s willingness to defend Walmart workers’ rights embolden OUR Walmart members?
More strikes have popped up in cities across the country recently, including a walkout this week at seven stores in the Dallas area. Events are expected to reach a fever pitch next week around Black Friday, the unofficial kickoff to the holiday shopping season. Last year about 400 workers nationwide went on strike on Black Friday, and OUR Walmart has said it expects 1,500 protests across the country this year.