Judge Tells Walmart It Illegally Punished and Intimidated Workers

Thursday, December 11, 2014
Judge Geoffrey Carter

Apparently Walmart managers telling Walmart workers, “If it were up to me I’d shoot the union,” is considered illegal intimidation, as are a bunch of other practices the world’s largest retailer used in California labor disputes.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Administrative Judge Geoffrey Carter ruled (pdf) that Walmart officials in two cities, Placerville and Richmond, threatened workers and otherwise tried to prevent them from organizing. He told Walmart to cut it out.

John Logan, an employment expert at San Francisco State University, told Reuters it is the first action by an NLRB judge taken against the retailer since the organization OUR Walmart began agitating on behalf of workers in 2010 for a living wage, dependable schedules, healthcare and a little respect. OUR Walmart, which is not a union, organized protests at more than a 1,000 stores on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Specifically, Carter said the company had to fix its overly broad dress code that prevented workers from displaying support for a union or its issues. He said Walmart was wrong to discipline six Richmond workers in 2012 for a one-day strike and ban other employees from talking to them.

He said the company couldn’t threaten to close the Placerville store if too many of its employees supported a group seeking higher wages and can’t pressure workers not to participate in labor actions. It is against federal law to intimidate workers who support a union, or retaliate against them.  

Carter also took a dim view of the manager who told a worker who was pulling a large load with a rope wrapped around his waist, “If it was up to me, I would put that rope around your neck.”

Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said in a statement: “We do not agree with some of the administrative law judge’s conclusions” and the company indicated it would appeal the decision to the full labor board.  

Walmart employs 1.4 million, 10% of all retail workers in the nation, and is virulently anti-union. A power-point presentation leaked in January by the hacker group Anonymous told Walmart managers how to bad mouth unions and offered “TIPS” on the kinds of activities that could get them in trouble. It reads not so much like a list of forbidden activities as a labor suppression how-to list.

The TIPS are Threaten, Interrogate, Promise and Spy.   

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Walmart Illegally Punished Workers, Judge Rules (by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times)

Judge Sides with California Workers in Walmart Labor Dispute (by Mica Rosenberg, Reuters)

Walmart Found Guilty of Illegally Intimidating, Punishing Employees (by Morgan Winsor, International Business Times)

Walmart Is Seeing Its Biggest Black Friday Protests Ever Today (by Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones)

Walmart Forces Employees to Buy New Uniforms . . . at Walmart (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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