Feds accuse Walmart of threatening, intimidating employees who protest company

Federal officials issued a complaint against Walmart Wednesday, formally charging the corporate monolith of breaking US labor law when it attempted to break up Black Friday protests organized by its workers.

  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is responsible  for enforcing labor laws that apply to businesses as well as  union organizations, accused Walmart of illegally threatening and  punishing workers who expressed interest in participating in the  post-Thanksgiving strikes.

  These allegations come on the same week that Occupy Wall Street  released internal corporate documents revealing how Walmart  allegedly works to keep unions out of its stores, including the  selective enforcement of company policy and purportedly illegal  actions like coercive interviews.

  In the days following the Black Friday demonstrations, company  employees in a number of states filed complaints with the NLRB.  The agency is known to generally prefer settling with companies  out of court, but the general counsel of the board “found  merit” with many of the claims and failed to reach an  agreement with Walmart executives.

  Among the complaints was one that accused company spokesman David  Tovar of threatening employees during an appearance on CBS  Evening News, when he said “there could be consequences”  for employees who attend the nationwide protests.

We’ve never seen a complaint against Walmart of this size or  scope, and we’re glad the NLRB is taking action,” said  Sarita Gupta, executive director of the labor organization Jobs  With Justice. “Walmart’s attacks on its own employees cannot  go unchecked.”

Dominic Ware is a former Walmart employee named in the complaint.  He told the Huffington Post he was fired after joining in  multiple California demonstrations last spring. Ware said he was  fired in July, and has since praised the NRLB’s decision to stand  up for people who had similar experiences to his own.

It’s just validating everything,” said the 27-year-old.  “There were people who doubted the truth of what we were  saying. To have it backed up by the federal government is just  unbelievable.”

Walmart has until January 28 to respond to the complaint, and the  company may still reach a settlement before that time.

Walmart now has the opportunity to share the facts in these  specific cases with an administrative law judge,” Brooke  Buchanan, a Walmart spokeswoman, told the Huffington Post.  “We’ve been in continued conversations with the NRLB on this  matter since it was announced in November, and we will continue  to be.”

OUR Walmart is one of the workers groups that advocates on behalf  of Dominic Ware and the thousands of employees who feel they have  been wronged by the company. OUR Walmart is not a union, but its  growing influence throughout the chain apparently has executives  worried enough that they compiled a training module seeking to  inform workers that OUR Walmart is “not really here to help  you.”

The documents, leaked to Occupy Wall Street from an unknown  source and published Tuesday, also pleaded with salaried managers  to “report union activity to the Labor Relations Hotline  immediately” and to “support Walmart’s position on how  we treat people.”

The training pages went on to suggest managers try to detect  “Early Warning Signs” that an employee is deviating from  the company line by listening for those who are “speaking  negatively about wages and benefits” or “ceasing  conversations when leadership approaches.”

To combat such a situation, managers should consult a list of  suggested talking points. One of which being: “In my opinion,  unions just want to hurt Walmart and make it harder to run our  business.”

A Walmart spokesperson confirmed to MSNBC that the slides were  authentic, saying only that “communications like these that  we’re talking about are important to make sure our associates are  receiving accurate and timely information.”