by Laura Clawson
Around 100 Walmart workers staged a small but extended strike in late May and early June as they went on a Ride for Respect to the company’s shareholder meetings. And now, after the workers have gone back to work, Walmart has apparently retaliated, firing 11 and disciplining 18.Walmart claims that the workers were fired or disciplined because of violation of attendance policy—which sounds plausible until you remember that workers engaging in concerted activity have protections that workers taking off to, say, go to the beach do not. Specifically:
Under US law, it is generally illegal to target workers for discipline because they went on strike, but can be legal to “permanently replace” strikers by filling their positions during the strike and refusing to let them return to work. OUR Walmart contends that its strikes have been “Unfair Labor Practices” strikes in protest of retaliation, a status that provides additional legal protection. Asked about that claim, [Walmart’s Kory] Lundberg responded, “We evaluate every situation individually, but as a general rule, the law does not protect hit-and-run intermittent work stoppages that are part of a coordinated union plan.”
If you need evidence that Walmart’s assessment of what is and is not illegal retaliation, consider this:
Two of the workers who’ve been disciplined had previously secured victories after filing charges against Walmart at the National Labor Relations Board, the agency charged with enforcing private sector labor law. Washington State worker Jerry Paladan, whose case led to a notice being posted in his store reiterating employees’ right to speak up about health and safety, has been suspended. Kentucky employee Aaron Lawson, who was previously fired by Walmart but reinstated following an NLRB charge, is among the ten “coached” by management.
In short, these workers went on strike because they’d faced unfair labor practices like retaliation for their activism. In response, Walmart fired or disciplined them. The workers are unbowed: Five were arrested at Yahoo! headquarters Monday as they tried to meet with Yahoo! CEO and Walmart board member Marissa Mayer.