Policy: Labor

Walmart again files lawsuit against grocery workers union

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor

Walmart filed a lawsuit last week against the United Food and Commercial Workers and a group the union runs called OURWalmart, alleging the two have been staging illegal protests at the retail giant’s California stores. The suit accuses union activists of trespassing on its stores, blocking customer access and other disruptive activities.

The UFCW, whose members include workers for Walmart’s rivals, has staged a running battle with retailer, which is nonunion. OURWalmart, a group the union created, is part of a broader effort to organize the retailer’s workers. While they have had some success in disrupting the business, they have yet to make any serious inroads. Walmart has refused to negotiate and generally turned to legal measures to push back against UFCW.

The Huffington Post reports:

Walmart claims that store personnel had to call police on multiple occasions to remove protesters from the stores, but that police often arrive after the alleged disruptions have already taken place. The retail giant hence filed the lawsuit in hopes the court will take legal action to stop the protests.

“Their unlawful actions are disrespectful to both our associates and our customers, and they have to stop,” Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman told The Huffington Post.

The California lawsuit isn’t Walmart’s first attempt to use the courts to fight demonstrations. Walmart filed a similar lawsuit in Florida against the UFCW and OURWalmart earlier this year. In that case, the retailer accused the protesters of breaking state law by coordinating statewide acts of trespass in Florida stores, according to Reuters. Walmart asked for a legal ruling to stop future trespassing.

Venanzi Luna, a member of OURWalmart, wrote in an email statement to The Huffington Post that though the organization has yet to see the lawsuit, “it sounds like another attempt by Walmart to try to silence our concerns.”

Back in January, the National Labor Relations Board issued a statement on a Walmart complaint against UFCW for illegal protests in which both sides claimed victory. The NLRB did not officially rule on the case because while it acknowledged the union’s actions were disruptive, but the board took at face value UFCW’s claim that its actions were not aimed at getting union recognition. Instead, the NLRB ordered UFCW to not picket or otherwise disrupt a Walmart store for 60 days.

Walmart claimed victory, but the UFCW said through OURWalmart that the NLRB’s decision “does not affect or limit OURWalmart members’ and supporter’s ability to otherwise protest, demonstrate against or strike because of  Walmart’s unfair practices.” Clearly, they meant it because they haven’t given up.

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