On Thursday the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Walmart illegally retaliated against the 16 associates who went on strike in 2013 and now the company must rehire those 16 associates.
The case is just one band-aid from the company’s response against the organization of their employees. In 2013, workers were backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) when they had planned to bus into Bentonville, Arkansas, to crash Walmart’s shareholder meeting. After learning of the “Ride for Respect” plan, corporate officials took action to monitor activists’ social media with the help of Lockheed Martin to stay one step ahead of the protesters.
Walmart then fired several of nearly 100 store employees who joined in on the “Ride for Respect”. The company had argued that missing work for a protest against the company warranted legal grounds for termination.
The ruling last Thursday left corporate officials at a loss as a judge ruled against them. It is now up to the judges to decide if the workers were participating in a legally protected strike, or an “intermittent work stoppage”, not protected by labor law. In the past, Walmart has been successful in arguing that protests at its stores were not legal strikes, but judge Geoffrey Carter said that the “Ride for Respect” was in a separate category.
Judge Carter has ordered Walmart to reinstate the 16 workers and give them the back pay from the date when the company fired them. Judge Carter also mandated that company officials need to hold public meetings with personnel at 29 Walmart stores to reiterate that workers’ have a right to organize. Company officials will also have to post public notices with a similar message in 31 other stores.
Walmart has already stated that they have planned to appeal Carter’s ruling. Walmart has a known history of fighting to the last breath to minimize worker unrest inside the courtroom and in how they train its store managers.
The company held out long enough to avoid full unionization when a year long organization between the UFCW and Walmart workers broke down last fall.
The company has been slow moving to raise the wages for its entry-level workers. However, last spring Walmart did give out one modest bump and had announced another wage hike early last week.
The company has tried to make schedules more predictable creating an online interface so workers can have a small say in their working hours. Walmart may even start allowing even start allowing its workers to accrue paid time off.
Walmart, a shopping empire built on minimizing labor costs, the possibility of paid time off is revolutionary by those standards.
Walmart, however still as a very large and evident dark side as many of its workers will continue to earn so little that they qualify for public assistance. This shortfall has given the retail giant a taxpayer-funded subsidy and after the companys first round of raises, they cut worker hours at some stores to minimize the cost.
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