Friday, November 16, 2012

[olympiaworkers] Wal-Mart files U.S. labor charge against union

(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc is taking its first legal step to stop
months of protests and rallies outside Walmart stores, targeting the union
that it says is behind such actions.

Wal-Mart filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Food and
Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW, asking the National Labor
Relations Board to halt what the retailer says are unlawful attempts to
disrupt its business.

The move comes just a week before what is expected to be the largest
organized action against the world's largest retailer, as a small group of
Walmart workers prepare to strike on Black Friday, typically the busiest
shopping day of the year.

"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," Wal-Mart
spokesman David Tovar said on Friday. "If they do, they will be held

The union is undeterred. "Walmart is grasping at straws," said UFCW
Communications Director Jill Cashen. "There's nothing in the law that
gives an employer the right to silence workers and citizens."

Protests and rallies outside Walmart stores around the country and other
actions such as flash mobs have been orchestrated by groups including OUR
Walmart, a coalition of thousands of current and former Walmart workers
that wants to collectively push for better wages, benefits and working

"Wal-Mart is in effect firing a shot across the bow of the UFCW,
essentially saying 'Look, you can expect this and more unless you
desist,'" said Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of
California, Berkeley, who specializes in labor issues.

Filing with the NLRB suggests that the protests have caught the attention
of Wal-Mart, which has no union-represented workers in the United States.

OUR Walmart and another group, Making Change at Walmart, are affiliated
with the UFCW, which represents more than 1 million workers including many
at retailers that compete with Walmart. According to a filing with the
Labor Department, OUR Walmart was a subsidiary of the UFCW as of 2011.

Walmart worker and OUR Walmart member Mary Pat Tifft told Reuters that OUR
Walmart is an independent organization that gets technical support from
the union but that the UFCW has no stake or controlling interest in the

"The fact that Wal-Mart is responding in such a public way is itself both
unusual and indicative that they truly don't want to see this spread,"
Shaiken said.

The NLRB typically receives a charge and investigates. At times, it
resolves issues without issuing a complaint, spokesman Tony Wagner said.
While most investigations take about six weeks, they can be expedited
under certain criteria, he said.

Activities over the past year or longer "have caused disruptions to
Walmart's business, resulted in misinformation being shared publicly about
our company, and created an uncomfortable environment and undue stress on
Walmart's customers, including families with children," Walmart outside
counsel Steven Wheeless said in a letter sent on Friday to Deborah Gaydos,
assistant general counsel of the UFCW.


The National Labor Relations Act prohibits such picketing for more than 30
days without the filing of a representation petition. The NLRA also
requires the NLRB to seek a federal court injunction against such
activity, the letter states.

The OUR Walmart group of current and former Walmart employees has been
organizing 1,000 protests including strikes and what it called online
actions that began this week and will culminate on Black Friday.

For example, workers walked off the job in Seattle on Thursday and in
Dallas on Friday, OUR Walmart said.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart said that anyone who is not an
employee is prohibited from coming onto its owned or controlled parking
lots or other facilities to solicit, hand out literature or otherwise
engage in any demonstration.

Wal-Mart said that it intends for the UFCW to be held accountable for any
injury or property damage that may occur as a result of the actions led by
the union, OUR Walmart or any of its other affiliates.

Past attempts to unionize Walmart U.S. workers have failed. In 2005, Tire
and Lube Express department workers at stores in New Castle, Pennsylvania,
and Loveland, Colorado, voted against representation by the UFCW.

OUR Walmart is not a union, though the thousands of Walmart employees it
says are members do pay $5 monthly dues.

Wal-Mart has 1.4 million U.S. workers. Of 5 million job applications
Walmart U.S. received in 2011, 20 percent of the workers it hired were
coming back to the company. The turnover rate among Walmart U.S.
employees, 37.26 percent in 2011, was below the industry average of 43.6
percent, it says.

"We just don't think what the unions have to offer is a better deal for
our associates," said Wal-Mart's Tovar.

Wal-Mart filed its charge against the UFCW late on Thursday with the NLRB
regional office in Little Rock, Arkansas. The case number is 26-CB-093342.

For copies of Wal-Mart's letter to the UFCW and the NLRB charge document
click and

For copies of Wal-Mart's letter to the UFCW and the NLRB charge document
click and

(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago. Additional writing by Phil Wahba in
New York; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Leslie Gevirtz)

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