Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Friday filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, asking the National Labor Relations Board to stop recent demonstrations and in-store “flash mobs” that the retailer called “unlawful attempts to disrupt its business.”
This story first appeared in the November 19, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The charge against the UFCW was filed with the NLRB’s regional office in Little Rock, Ark., and accuses the union of violating the National Labor Relations Act by staging protests and intimidating Wal-Mart customers and employees at stores across the country.
The retail giant is asking the NLRB to initiate an investigation against the UFCW and its affiliates, including Our Wal-Mart, and to seek an injunction in federal court to stop the activity, according to the two-page charge.
Wal-Mart also said the UFCW is attempting to force Wal-Mart employees to select the union as their collective bargaining representative without proper certification. The retailer said the picketing and threats to picket “have been conducted without a representation petition being filed within a reasonable period of time” from the start of picketing, threats and misconduct.
“Wal-Mart 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,” the UFCW said. “Associates are exercising their freedom to speak out in protest of Wal-Mart’s unfair actions against their coworkers. The UFCW is taking action to support Wal-Mart associates and demand the company improve working conditions. There’s nothing in the law that gives an employer the right to silence workers and citizens.”
Our Wal-Mart, which is made up of Wal-Mart associates, held one of the first-ever strikes against the retail giant in October. Our Wal-Mart and Making Change at Wal-Mart were dismayed last week by the retailer’s decision to open stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. “As the largest employer in the country, Wal-Mart could be setting a standard for businesses for value families, but instead, this is one more Wal-Mart policy that hurts the families of workers at its stores,” Mary Pat Tifft, a founding member of Our Wal-Mart said.
“Make no mistake about it, Our Wal-Mart is a wholly owned subsidiary of the UFCW,” said Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar. “The UFCW has been trying, unsuccessfully, to organize Wal-Mart workers for many years.
“Over the last year, we have seen a number of exaggerated publicity campaigns aimed at generating headlines to mislead our customers and associates. We believe it is important to speak up for the 1.3 million associates who have no interest in letting a handful of people, coerced by the UFCW, purport to represent them. We’re seeking resolution of this matter from the labor board, so Wal-Mart and our associates can focus on what we do best: serving our customers with great products at low prices.”
Our Wal-Mart and Making Change at Wal-Mart promised to launch 1,000 store protests, strikes and rallies leading up to and on Black Friday.