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Advocacy group accuses Wal-Mart of illegal threats to stop protest

November 21, 2012|By Shan Li
  • A worker pulls a line of shopping carts toward a Wal-Mart store in North Kingstown, R.I.
A worker pulls a line of shopping carts toward a Wal-Mart store in North Kingstown,… (Steven Senne / Associated…)

OUR Walmart, an advocacy group made up of Wal-Mart employees, has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the world's largest retailer of illegally making threats to stop its workers from protesting on Black Friday.

The complaint centers around comments from Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar, who said Monday on the "CBS Evening News" that "there could be consequences" for workers who skip out on scheduled shifts on the day after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

OUR Walmart said those comments were part of an ongoing attempt by the retailer to silence workers' voices "through scheduling changes, reductions in hours and even firings."

"Wal-Mart's attempt to shut down our protests is one more example of the company's efforts to silence any opposition that they face," said Mary Pat Tifft, a Wal-Mart worker and OUR Walmart member."I want to send a clear message to Wal-Mart: We will not be silenced."

In response, Tovar said there has not been and never will be retaliation against workers "who are simply expressing their views."

"We are always willing to hear their concerns," he said.

Tovar added that like any large corporation, Wal-Mart has a "thoughtful system of coachings and disciplinary actions," which workers are subject to if they "purposefully violate lawful company policies at the store or create an unsafe environment for other workers or shoppers."

OUR Walmart's complaint follows one made last week by the retailer, which accused a labor union of unfairly organizing months of protests outside its stores just as it faced orchestrated demonstrations by workers in the days leading up to Black Friday.

The complaint said the NLRB is allowed to stop any such activities that go on for more than 30 days when a union is seeking recognition from a company. Wal-Mart said the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which helped found OUR Walmart, is actually behind the recent protests and is seeking union recognition from the retailer -- a charge the workers group denies.

More protests are planned for Black Friday, including one scheduled at the Wal-Mart store in Paramount, Calif.

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