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VOL. 37 | NO. 5 | Friday, February 01, 2013
Union agrees to back off Wal-Mart protests
ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, AP Retail Writer
Labor groups say they will end most of their picketing of Wal-Mart stores as part of a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board.
The agreement, announced by Wal-Mart, comes after the discounter filed a complaint in late November with the National Labor Relations Board against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. It said that demonstrations organized by union-backed OUR Walmart that culminated on the day after Thanksgiving threatened to disrupt its business and intimidate customers and other store workers.
OUR Walmart is made up of former and current Wal-Mart workers.
Meanwhile, OUR Walmart filed its own charge with the labor board. It cited attempts by Wal-Mart to deter workers from participating in what the group called legally protected walkouts.
At issue were what constitutes picketing and whether the activity was aimed at gaining recognition for the union.
Union officials have argued that the walk-outs and demonstrations are to protest what it believes are Wal-Mart's retaliation tactics against workers who publicly speak out about working conditions and wages. The tactics allegedly include scheduling changes and reduction in workers' hours. OUR Walmart had argued that because the planned walkouts are in protest of what it believes are unfair labor practices, workers are legally protected under federal labor law.
Wal-Mart faced a worker walk-out last October ahead of its annual investor meeting that expanded to more than a dozen states and involved about 90 workers. Those efforts intensified on the day after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, known as "Black Friday."
The agreement, announced Thursday, will stop picketing and "confrontational conduct" at Wal-Mart facilities for at least 60 days.
In a letter to the National Labor Relations Board from the UFCW that was supplied by Wal-Mart, the labor group said that it has no intent in "forcing or requiring employees of Wal-Mart to accept or select UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representatives of its employees."
"We appreciate the thorough efforts of the NLRB in its investigation," Wal-Mart said in a statement. "Many of the union's demonstrations and pickets used before Black Friday were illegal."
The UFCW couldn't be reached immediately for a comment.
UFCW organizers have been working to unionize Wal-Mart workers and have campaigned for the company to pay its employees more and offer better benefits.