By  on January 15, 2014

The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday issued what is said to be the largest complaint against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for breaking federal labor law by violating workers’ rights. The complaint alleges Wal-Mart illegally fired and disciplined nearly 70 workers, including those who went on strike last June.

The NLRB describes illegal activities in 14 states at 34 stores and asserts that Wal-Mart executives put an unlawful retaliation policy in place for store managers to follow. The complaint names 63 store managers and assistant store managers and company spokesperson and vice president of communications David Tovar as being responsible for making illegal threats to employees.

The NLRB authorized complaints in November, but withheld issuing the complaints to allow time for settlement discussions. The discussions were not successful, and a consolidated complaint has been issued regarding some of the alleged violations of federal law, the NLRB said Wednesday.

Wal-Mart said in November that it disagreed with the NLRB and reiterated its position on Wednesday. “This is the next procedural step,” said a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. “The merits of these complaints have not been heard. Wal-Mart will now have the opportunity to shed some light on the facts and provide our side. We look forward to doing that. We’ve treated our associates respectfully and lawfully. We have a strict no retaliation policy. We’ve continually worked with NLRB throughout the process.”

Wal-Mart must respond to the complaint by Jan. 28, at which time an administrative law judge will set a hearing date. The Office of the General Counsel has authorized or issued complaints in other Wal-Mart cases, and additional charges remain under investigation.

The National Labor Relations Act guarantees the right of private sector employees to act together to try to improve their wages and working conditions with or without a union. The NLRB alleges that Wal-Mart violated the act when during two national TV news broadcasts and in statements to employees at Wal-Mart stores in California and Texas, the retailer unlawfully threatened employees with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests. It also allegedly threatened, disciplined and/or terminated employees for engaging in legally protected strikes and protests in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington. In stores in California, Florida, Missouri and Texas, Wal-Mart unlawfully threatened, surveilled, disciplined and/or terminated employees in anticipation of or in response to employees’ other protected concerted activities.

“This is an important case,” said a labor rights expert. “It affects a lot of workers whose rights may be getting violated.”

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