Federal agency authorizes prosecution of Walmart on violations of worker rights

Big news yesterday related to Walmart’s ongoing labor unrest in its supply chain and stores: The National Labor Relations Board has found merit in several charges that Walmart violated workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

According to the NLRB, the allegations with merit include:

  • During two national television news broadcasts and in statements to employees at Walmart stores in California and Texas, Walmart unlawfully threatened employees with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests on November 22, 2012.

  • Walmart stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests.

  • Walmart stores in California, Florida, Missouri and Texas unlawfully threatened, surveilled, disciplined, and/or terminated employees in anticipation of or in response to employees’ other protected concerted activities.

[Oddly, the person responsible for the unlawful televised threads the NLRB mentions in its first bullet point, David Tovar, has been promoted. Walmart has promoted people connected to allegations of illegal behavior — see, for example, Eduardo Castro Wright, identified in the New York Times as “the driving force behind years of bribery” in Mexico, who was promoted to vice chairman in 2008. Or, for that matter, Mike Duke, who headed up Walmart International at the time the bribery allegations first surfaced, reportedly was involved in stymieing an internal investigation into the allegations, and later was promoted to CEO.]

In a statement, OUR Walmart said it filed labor charges with the NLRB after its members were illegally fired or retaliated against for speaking out for workplace improvements, such as better wages and scheduling practices, or undertaking legally protected strikes in response to illegal retaliation.

The NLRB will now seek settlements with Walmart on the allegations; news outlets have reported that settlements could include rehiring workers with back pay and reversing disciplinary actions. While Al Jazeera America has reported that Walmart may fight the allegations rather than attempt settlements, a law professor said it is in Walmart’s “best interest” to settle:

Katherine Stone, a UCLA law professor specializing in labor and employment law, explained that while the NLRB cannot independently prosecute Wal-Mart, failing to settle may cost the retail giant in the long term.

“The NLRB is not a prosecutor in the criminal law. It maintains an adjudicatory section which processes what are called unfair labor practice charges,” she said, explaining that Wal-Mart “could be subjected to an order to put people back to work and give back pay or face legal action.”

“It’s in Wal-Mart’s best interest to resolve this so they don’t have to pay too much back pay,” Stone said.


When will Walmart execs and Board of Directors members like Rob Walton, Chris Williams, Marissa Mayer, Aida Alvarez, and Jim Cash take action to solve the company’s persistent labor problems?

What do you think?