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Walmart Intimidation, Firings an 'Illegal' Attack on Workers: NLRB

Decision bodes well for Black Friday protests, 'a labor day of action for working families'

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

(Reuters)Walmart's intimidation and firing of employees who participated in strikes and protests against the retail giant were illegal, the National Labor Relations Board announced on Monday.

According to the NLRB, Walmart has “unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees” in 13 states for protesting their employer and taking part in strikes. In four states those charges also included the surveillance, discipline, and/or termination of employees "in anticipation of" planned strikes.

On two occasions Walmart spokesperson David Tovar had illegally threatened workers on national television, saying “there would be consequences” for workers who partook in the year's Black Friday strikes.

The NLRB said that if the parties cannot reach settlements in these cases, which covers striking employees who partook in the "Black Friday" protests of 2012 as well as protests in June at a shareholder meeting in Bentonville, Ark., the board will take action in favor of the ousted workers. That may include forcing Walmart to rehire as many as 117 employees with back pay, according to Bloomberg.

The move bodes well for the Walmart workers and organizers who have been ramping up their campaign for better wages and working conditions with planned strikes and protests building up to this year's nation-wide Black Friday day of action.

Those actions have gained increasingly widespread support from "local, state and national groups representing tens of millions of Americans" who have now "pledged to join Walmart workers demanding change at the country’s largest retailer and employer on Black Friday," labor organizer OUR Walmart, which has spearheaded the employees' struggle, said Monday.

"The scale of support and nationwide activity being planned for Black Friday is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history," said Peter Dreier, politics professor and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. "Black Friday is becoming a labor day of action for working families."

“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 Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs With Justice and American Rights at Work. “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."

“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. “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.”

"As income inequality climbs to historic levels and families are increasingly pushed to the margins, working families are coming together to demand better," added Dreier. "This year, the day after Thanksgiving will be remembered not as the biggest shopping day of the year, but as the day Americans took action to demand the country's largest employer pay workers livable wages and play a part in improving our economy.”

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