Wal-Mart files U.S. labor charge against union

Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:05pm EST
 
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By Jessica Wohl

(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc is taking its first legal step to stop months of protests and rallies outside Walmart stores, targeting the union that it says is behind such actions.

Wal-Mart filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW, asking the National Labor Relations Board to halt what the retailer says are unlawful attempts to disrupt its business.

The move comes just a week before what is expected to be the largest organized action against the world's largest retailer, as a small group of Walmart workers prepare to strike on Black Friday, typically the busiest shopping day of the year.

"We are taking this action now because we cannot allow the UFCW to continue to intentionally seek to create an environment that could directly and adversely impact our customers and associates," Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said on Friday. "If they do, they will be held accountable."

The union is undeterred. "Walmart is grasping at straws," said UFCW Communications Director Jill Cashen. "There's nothing in the law that gives an employer the right to silence workers and citizens."

Protests and rallies outside Walmart stores around the country and other actions such as flash mobs have been orchestrated by groups including OUR Walmart, a coalition of thousands of current and former Walmart workers that wants to collectively push for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

"Wal-Mart is in effect firing a shot across the bow of the UFCW, essentially saying 'Look, you can expect this and more unless you desist,'" said Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in labor issues.

Filing with the NLRB suggests that the protests have caught the attention of Wal-Mart, which has no union-represented workers in the United States.   Continued...

 
Striking Walmart workers walk a picket line during a protest over unsafe working conditions and poor wages outside a Walmart store in Pico Rivera, California, October 4, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn