Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision that didn’t surprise Walmart employees: The company had violated workers’ rights around the country. The NLRB announced that it would prosecute Walmart for its illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June.
“The board’s decision confirms what Walmart workers have long known: The company is illegally trying to silence employees who speak out for better jobs,” said Sari ta Gupta, executive director of Jobs With Justice and American Rights at Work, in a statement. “Americans believe that we have the responsibility—and the right—to speak out against corporate abuses of workers, and this proves we’re finally being heard and making kinks in Walmart’s armor.”
NLRB’s decision was sparked by threats that Walmart managers and national spokesperson Dave Tovar made to try and discourage workers from striking and for taking illegal disciplinary actions through the decision. The chain could be required to inform and educate all employees about their legally protected rights.
“Working at the largest employer in the country should mean making a decent living. Those days are long gone,” said Tiffany Beroid, a Walmart worker from Laurel, Md., in a statement. “Walmart continues to show that it’s afraid to have real conversations about creating better jobs, but would rather scare us into silence. But change at Walmart is too important to our economy and for our families for us to stop speaking out.”
One year ago, charges were filed in advance of Black Friday, when Walmart pushed back against a planned strike during the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Tovar even went on national television stating that there would be consequences for workers who didn’t show up to their Black Friday shifts.
The NLRB’s decision covers that situation, along with the firings and disciplinary actions that occurred after 100 Walmart workers held a rally at the company’s June shareholder meeting. Once they returned to work, the protesting workers were fired and disciplined even though their absences were legally recognized and protected.
This isn’t the first time that Walmart has been called to task recently. In California, the NLRB decided to prosecute Walmart for 11 violations of federal labor law regarding similar Black Friday-related threats to employees. In Kentucky, Walmart reached a settlement with employee Aaron Lawson after he was fired for distributing flyers and speaking out against company attempts to suppress voices calling for better wages, benefits and hours. The company agreed to rehire him and pay him back wages for the time he was out of work.