Walmart accused of firing union organizers in bid to intimidate workers
Federal labor law broadly protects the activity of non-certified groups against any retaliatory action by an employer. Yet, protected as they are on paper, workers often meet with frustration in contesting unjust firings.
"The arbitration process is incredibly slow-moving, as it often takes several years of litigation to get employee reinstated," says Kent Wong, the director of UCLA's Center for Labor Research and Education. "Companies realize this and are frequently willing to violate the law knowing the penalty is so distant and relatively minor."
"This all is very consistent with Walmart's practice," Wong added.
The recent terminations will likely play out in court, but, for now, Angela Williamson is spreading her story online and, along with Green, is the subject of a petition for reinstatement.
"Because of that termination I was evicted from my apartment," Williams said in a video posted on YouTube. "I think we all need to stand together and hold Walmart accountable for what they've done to me and numerous other people."
With 1.4 million employees in the US and 2.2 million worldwide, Walmart is the largest private employer in world.
With not a single successful union drive at Walmart in US history, such strategies appear to be working well for the company. OUR Walmart believes that its non-union route will prove more effective than all past attempts at organizing Walmart.
Complaints from workers about conditions have been well documented. Most of the company's workers are paid a dollar or two above minimum wage and earn an annual income of roughly $17,000 dollars a year. A common complaint of employees is that the Walmart does not allow them to work full time to qualify for benefits and break even financially.
A 2006 study, detailed in the Seattle Times, found that in Washington State, 23% of Walmart's 16,000 workers depended on Medicaid or the State's subsidized health plan. Indeed, Walmart's 2012 Walmart Associate Benefits Handbook gives detailed instructions to its employees on how to apply for Medicaid.
In addition to the low pay, many workers associated with OUR Walmart have recently complained that the company has begun to demand that workers take on increasingly strenuous workloads, a statement buttressed by a union-backed study which said Walmart has been engaging in company-wide understaffing.
Rivaling its massive size is the incredible sophistication of Walmart's union avoidance tactics. Walmart examines prospective employees on their likeliness to participate in organized labor, and closely monitors and conditions employees it hires to snub organizing activity before it starts.
The company even has a private jet to convey its mobile union avoidance team anywhere in the country upon detecting nascent organizing efforts.
"Unions for years have tried to unionize Walmart associates, and time and time again our associates have rejected those overtures," Fogleman said. "I think the vast majority of our associates have a very rewarding experience with the company."