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U.S. Government charges Walmart with labour violations


The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in the United States has issued the largest-ever complaint against Walmart for breaking federal labour law by violating workers’ rights. The complaint filed by the federal government agency alleges Walmart illegally fired and disciplined nearly 70 workers, including those who went on strike last June to speak out for better jobs.

The NLRB asserts illegal activities in 14 states at 34 stores and shows that company executives conceived and oversaw implementation of an unlawful retaliation policy for store managers to execute. The complaint – the largest ever against Walmart in both size and scale – names 63 individual store managers and company spokesperson and vice president of communication David Tovar as being responsible for illegal threats made to employees.

Walmart workers, part of the national organizationOUR Walmart, have been taking the country’s income inequality head on by standing up for better wages at the country’s largest employer. While the majority of Walmart associates are paid less than $25,000 a year, Walmart makes $17 billion in annual profits and the Waltons — the richest family in the country—have a combined wealth of $144.7 billion.

The complaint details the Board’s decision to prosecute the company for its illegal firings and disciplinary actions against workers standing up for better jobs. The NLRB complaint addresses charges filed one year ago in advance of Black Friday 2012, when Walmart managers escalated their efforts to threaten and discourage workers from going on legally protected strikes. David Tovar, spokesperson for the company, even went so far as to threaten workers on national television, saying "there would be consequences" for workers who did not come in for scheduled shifts on Black Friday.

Additionally, the complaint covers the illegal firings and disciplinary actions that occurred after 100 striking Walmart workers took their concerns to the company’s June shareholder meeting in Bentonville. When these workers returned to work, Walmart systematically fired and disciplined them despite their legally recognized, protected absences. This included disciplinary action against at least 43 workers and the firing of at least another 23 worker-leaders.

If Walmart is found liable, workers could be awarded back pay, reinstatement and the reversal of disciplinary actions through the decision; and Walmart could be required to inform and educate all employees of their legally protected rights.

In other labour charges against Walmart, workers have been winning. In California alone, the National Labor Relations Board recently decided to prosecute Walmart for 11 violations of federal labour law for some threats made around Black Friday in 2012. In Kentucky, a settlement has been reached between Walmart and an employee who was fired after he distributed flyers and spoke out against the company’s attempts to silence those who called for better wages and consistent hours. As part of the settlement, Walmart agreed to rehire the employee and provide full back wages for the time he was out of work.

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