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Wal-Mart Files Unfair US Labor Practice Charge Over Protests



The move comes just a week before what is expected to be the largest organized action against the world’s largest retailer, as a small group of Walmart workers prepare to strike on Black Friday, typically the busiest shopping day of the year.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is taking its first legal step to stop months of protests and rallies outside Walmart stores, targeting the union that it says is behind such actions, Reuters reports.

Wal-Mart late on Thursday filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW, asking the National Labor Relations Board to halt what the retailer says are unlawful attempts to disrupt its business.

The move comes just a week before what is expected to be the largest organized action against the world’s largest retailer, as a small group of Walmart workers prepare to strike on Black Friday, typically the busiest shopping day of the year.

“We are taking this action now because we cannot allow the UFCW to continue to intentionally seek to create an environment that could directly and adversely impact our customers and associates,” said Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar. “If they do, they will be held accountable.”

The union is undeterred. “Walmart is grasping at straws,” said UFCW Communications Director Jill Cashen. “There’s nothing in the law that gives an employer the right to silence workers and citizens.”

Protests and rallies outside Walmart stores around the country and other actions such as flash mobs have been orchestrated by groups including OUR Walmart, a coalition of thousands of Walmart workers which wants to collectively push for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

OUR Walmart and another group, Making Change at Walmart, are affiliated with the UFCW. The union represents more than 1 million workers, including many at retailers that compete with Walmart. According to a filing with the Labor Department, OUR Walmart was a subsidiary of the UFCW as of 2011. It is unclear whether it remains a subsidiary or has legally separated from the union.

Numerous activities over the past year or longer “have caused disruptions to Walmart’s business, resulted in misinformation being shared publicly about our company, and created an uncomfortable environment and undue stress on Walmart’s customers, including families with children,” Walmart outside counsel Steven Wheeless said in a letter sent on Friday to Deborah Gaydos, assistant general counsel of the UFCW.

The National Labor Relations Act prohibits such picketing for more than 30 days without the filing of a representation petition. The NLRA also requires the NLRB to seek a federal court injunction against such activity, the letter states.

The OUR Walmart group of current and former Walmart employees is organizing its most public displays yet against the Walmart chain, with 1,000 protests such as strikes and what it calls “online actions” that began this week and will culminate on Black Friday.

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