Walmart’s reputation took another hit this week when major media outlets pounced on a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board claiming the retailer illegally retaliated against workers who participated in protests at stores.
The complaint stems from incidents that occurred in the run up to the 2012 holiday season when groups affiliated with and backed by organized labor sought to disrupt activities at Walmart stores by encouraging employees to walk off the job in an action akin to a strike. Some of those who did so were fired by Walmart. Those fired viewed Walmart’s actions as retaliatory and the pro-organized labor NLRB sided with that view, claiming Walmart threatened and intimidated employees.
Walmart of course took a different view and contends it was within its rights to dismiss workers who chose to abandon a scheduled shift, regardless of the reason. At issue is whether the protests are deemed a “stike,” as organizers characterized the activity at the time. Walmart employees do not belong to a union and are not covered by a collective bargaining agreement so it is impossible for workers to go on strike. Participating in organized protests is a different matter and had the employees done so on their own time Walmart wouldn’t have been able to fire them.
Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan was quoted in several locations as saying the company looks forward to sharing facts of the case with an administrative law judge because it is unacceptable for an employee to come and go from work to participate in union orchestrated PR stunt.
What’s ironic about the whole affair is that the employees who find Walmart such a terrible place to work and are demanding higher wages now want their jobs back at an employer they so despise.