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PICO RIVERA, CA OCTOBER 4, 2012 - Walmart employees strike out side of a Walmart store in Pico Rivera, California on Thursday October 4, 2012. The employees accuse Walmart of unlawful retaliation against workers who speak out for change at the company. Th
Walmart and the National Labor Relation Board have failed to reach a settlement of the complaints the NLRB authorized against the retail giant in November, which means the case will be going in front of an administrative law judge. According to the labor board, Walmart illegally threatened and retaliated against striking workers—doing it on national television in two cases.

The complaints go back to November 2012, when hundreds of Walmart workers across the country went on strike. The activism continued, and after a more prolonged strike by a smaller number of workers who went to protest at the Walmart shareholder meetings, 20 were fired. Dozens of other workers were disciplined following other actions as well. It's a violation of the National Labor Relations Act to threaten or discipline workers for protected concerted activity—like these protests—so, in a complaint naming a corporate officer and more than 60 supervisors, the NLRB is charging that Walmart "unlawfully threatened, surveilled, disciplined, and/or terminated employees," with complaints coming from 13 states.

The threats are pretty clear. Not only did a corporate spokesman go on national television and say "there could be consequences" for striking workers, but:

In its complaint, the labor board cited an internal Walmart memorandum that it said a company official read to workers in February of 2013 that address labor actions against the retailer:

"[I]t is very important for you to understand that the company does not agree that these hit-and-run work stoppages are protected, and now that it has done the legal thinking on the subject, it will not excuse them in the future…," the memo said, according to the board's complaint. "Should you participate in further union-orchestrated intermittent work stoppages that are part of a common plan or design to disrupt and confuse the company’s business operations, you should expect that the Company will treat any such absence as it would any other unexcused absence…."

Except that the National Labor Relations Act says otherwise; as the labor board that enforces it summarizes, the NLRA "gives employees the right to act together to try to improve their pay and working conditions or fix job-related problems, even if they aren't in a union" and "forbids employers from interfering with employees in the exercise of rights to form, join or assist a labor organization for collective bargaining, or from working together to improve terms and conditions of employment."

Walmart has until the end of the month to respond; a settlement is still possible but it doesn't sound like Walmart plans to bend, so a hearing before an administrative law judge is the likely outcome.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 07:14 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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