NLRB to Walmart: We’re watching you
Stephon Johnson | 1/23/2014, 3:57 p.m.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)wanted to remind Walmart one more time that they’re on notice.
Last week, the NLRB issued a complaint—the largest ever—against Walmart for breaking federal labor law by violating workers’ rights. According to the complaint, Walmart illegally fired close to 70 workers, including those who went on strike in June 2013 to speak out for jobs with better wages and benefits. Barbara Collins, a fired Walmart worker from California and one of the workers named in the complaint, said that the fight against the retailer is just starting.
“Walmart thinks it can scare us with attacks to keep us from having a real conversation about the poverty wages we’re paid,” said Collins in a statement. “But too much is at stake—the strength of our economy and the security of our families—to stay silent about why Walmart needs to improve jobs. Now the federal government is confirming what we already know: We have the right to speak out, and Walmart fired me and my coworkers illegally.”
NLRB’s complaint states that Walmart conducted illegal activities in 14 states at 34 stores and details how company executives conceived and helped implement unlawful retaliation policies that store managers then executed. Sixty-three individual store managers and company spokesperson and Vice President of Corporate Communications David Tovar were held as being responsible for illegal threats made to Walmart employees.
“Walmart workers are bravely leading the national movement to end low-wage work,” said Bill Fletcher Jr., chairman of the Retail Justice Alliance, in a statement. “Walmart is a major driver of the widening income inequality gap with its low wages that set the standard for retail jobs. We cannot get our economy moving again when the largest employer breaks federal law in an effort to keep wages down. Walmart needs to start following the law and improve jobs by paying workers a living wage.”
For the past several years, Walmart workers have fought for higher wages. With the largest employer in the country making $17 billion annually in profits and the Waltons having a combined wealth of $144.7 billion, workers feel that Walmart associates could make much more money. The majority of Walmart workers make less than $25,000 a year.
The NLRB’s current actions allow for additional protection to Walmart workers while they continue to fight for a minimum salary of $25,000 annually for full-time work. 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. If found liable, Walmart’s management could be responsible for back pay, the reversal of disciplinary actions and the reinstatement of workers. Walmart might also be required to inform and educate employees of their legally protected rights—something that Sarita Gupta executive director of Jobs With Justice, finds satisfying, but it’s not enough.
“Shoppers, workers and activists all stand with Walmart workers calling for a decent day’s pay so they can support their families and contribute to the economy,” said Gupta in a statement. “We’ve never seen a complaint against Walmart of this size or scope, and we’re glad the NLRB is taking action. Walmart’s attacks on its own employees cannot go unchecked.”