Back in December, this blog discussed how the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found Wal-Mart’s employee intimidation practices illegal. This includes firing and harassing employees who spoke against its exploitation and went on strike. As a result, the NLRB planned to go ahead and prosecute the company’s actions, which affected 117 workers across the country. Recently the NLRB took further action, issuing a complaint against Wal-Mart in 14 states for violating labor laws by taking actions against workers who went on strike. Wal-Mart representatives reportedly appeared on television and other media, threatening retaliation for the workers’ actions, and then disciplining or firing workers for striking, despite it being a legally protected activity. The complaint specifically cites more than 60 Wal-Mart supervisors, as well as a corporate officer.
The complaint was filed after an initial NLRB investigation found that the charges against Wal-Mart had merit. The parties involved attempted a settlement, but it fell apart, prompting one of the NLRB’s regional directors to file. The states involved in the complaint include Kentucky, as well as California, Texas, and Washington.
In addition to giving dozens of employees verbal and written warnings and reprimands, Wal-Mart supervisors also allegedly frequently categorized time spent striking as unexcused absences. Wal-Mart has until the end of January to respond to the complaint. Then an NLRB administrative law judge will oversee the trial, and the judge’s findings will either be adopted or rejected by the NLRB’s five-panel members.
Some experts claim that in going after Wal-Mart in both instances, the NLRB is attempting to reestablish itself as “a force to be feared” after the board had been frustrated and weakened for many years by the Bush administration and critics in Congress. The NLRB has been asserting itself not only in workplaces that are already unionized, as it has traditionally done but also in notoriously non-unionized workplaces like Wal-Mart, which employs 1.3 million people across the country. The complaint filed against Wal-Mart is thought to be the largest complaint in the country. If the company is found guilty, it could be required to provide its workers with a variety of remedies, including back pay, reversing any disciplinary actions, and reinstating workers who were fired for participating in a strike.
The NLRB’s actions are welcome not simply to Wal-Mart employees or union employees, but to any worker. That is because there is evidence that the stronger the union presence, the stronger the economy. Unions put pressure on employers to raise wages, and higher wages give workers increased purchasing power, which in turn puts more money in the economy and encourages more hiring. By contrast, weak labor union presence leads to employers hoarding capital instead of giving raises, and slowing hiring. That is why unions in the workplace should be encouraged, not stifled. In the meantime, if you live in Kentucky and have been fired for going on strike, contact a Kentucky labor law attorney today.
Charles W. Miller & Associates is a plaintiffs law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. Contact us today for a free consultation.