The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that protects workers’ rights to organize and demand better conditions, will announce a decision today to prosecute Walmart for violating workers’ rights by firing, disciplining, and threatening workers who went on strike or attempted to unionize, according to OUR Walmart, the group that has been helping to organize the strikes.
The group says the NLRB will prosecute the company for illegally firing and disciplining more than 117 workers, including some who went on strike last June. It also includes threats by managers and spokespeople meant to discourage workers from striking. Workers could potentially see back pay, reinstatement to their former positions, and the reversal of disciplinary actions.
In an emailed statement, a Walmart spokesperson said, “We disagree with this position by the Division of Advice. This is just a procedural step and we will pursue our options to defend the company because we believe our actions were legal and justified… It’s important to note that there has not been one decision in the last 5 years by the NLRB or by a court finding that Walmart violated the National Labor Relations Act. That is because we take our obligations under the Act very seriously and we train our managers accordingly.” The NLRB did not return a request for comment.
Workers have gone on strike multiple times over the past year, with a wave of 400 walking out on Black Friday last year. The latest saw strikes in three cities over a week-long period. Workers have been demanding higher pay, more full-time work, and an end to retaliation.
But workers have repeatedly claimed that they are fired or disciplined for going on strike. The company itself has also admitted to threatening workers who look into forming unions that their benefits could disappear if they organize.
Recent company data showed that the majority of Walmart’s in-store workers make less than $25,000 a year. Wages are so low that workers in one location alone consume around $1 million in public benefits to get by. The company has also been found to be mostly interested in hiring temporary workers, although recently reversed course somewhat to hire more full-time positions ahead of the holidays in the face of slumping sales.
This post has been updated with a statement from the company.
The NLRB released an announcement about the decision, saying that it looked at a variety of charges that the company violated workers’ rights and “found merit in some of the charges and no merit in others.” The ones that it found to have merit include Walmart stores in 13 states — California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington — unlawfully threatening, disciplining, and/or firing workers who went on strike; stores in California, Florida, Missouri and Texas unlawfully responding to other protected activities; and two national TV interviews and other statements to employees in California and Texas in which the company unlawfully threatened workers for going on strike or protesting ahead of Black Friday last year.