The right to unionize has long been recognized as one of the most fundamental legal actions available to American employees. Big-box chain Walmart is now seeking to terminate those employee rights by suing grocery workers unions and other groups that have staged protests at some Florida stores. The corporation is seeking to stop the protests because they have illuminated unsavory working conditions and pay discrepancies.
Walmart does not allow its employees to unionize. Still, grocery store unions and other industry organizations have long voiced their opposition to the company’s actions. Those groups include the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and former employees belonging to a subsidiary known as OUR Walmart.
Representatives from the industry giant say the suit primarily revolves around property rights, but employee advocates argue that Walmart is attempting to silence its critics. The so-called “disruptive” demonstrations have been compromising customer safety, according to Walmart leaders. Also, the union protestors are technically trespassing, according to the suit.
The activities on Walmart property during the past eight months range from organized demonstrations to impromptu “flash mobs.” One group even showcased a video by projecting it on the side of the building. Managers say they have often had to call the police to force the protestors to disperse. In one incident, more than 30 trespass warrants were issued, though no arrests were made.
Employees and organizers say the demonstrations are only designed to bring attention to the poor working conditions inside Walmart’s corporate stores. The embattled industry giant has been under scrutiny for overtime pay violations, gender discrimination and a variety of other claims during recent decades.
Walmart’s decision to prohibit its employees from unionizing is questionable, at best. The mega store will continue to face protests until it improves working conditions. Employees who think their rights have been violated by such massive corporations should seek assistance from a qualified employment attorney.
Source: Reuters, “Wal-Mart sues grocery union, others over Florida protests,” Jessica Wohl, March 25, 2013