Sporadic protests and walkouts at Wal-Mart locations around the country last week have prompted the mega-retailer to complain to the National Labor Relations Board. A letter, sent by the company to the United Foodservice and Commercial Workers, accuses the union of provoking “disruptions” in its business, spreading “misinformation” and creating an “uncomfortable environment and undue stress on Wal-Mart’s customers.”
Wal-Mart (along with Target and Sears) is planning to open its stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Employees, many of whom are expected report for work at 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day are complaining about not being given a choice as to whether they would work on Thanksgiving and were told to do so with little warning. They point to previous experiences with trying to talk directly with management about scheduling and other problems has led to reductions in hours, harassment and even termination for those brave enough to say anything.
For years, Wal-Mart has been targeted by unions and workers complaining about low wages, scant benefits, and retaliation against those who speak out. Until now, the company has crushed attempts by employees to organize.
The current round of actions has occurred outside the normal sphere of labor-management interactions. Protesters are not asking for union representation, despite getting logistical support from the UCFW, and this has led to broader public recognition of (and a public relations nightmare about) workplace issues at the company. With 1.4 million employees, Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the U.S.
Over 1000 protests of all types are planned at Wal-Mart locations around the country this week. For information about events at stores in your area, go here.