Walmart workers have taken on the biggest private employer in the United States. Aided by labor unions and supporters from community and progressive organizations, they have faced up to every hostile tactic employed by this ruthless transnational corporation, defending their own rights and those of all the employees.
It is this strong fight against the global giant’s unfair labor practices that has led the National Labor Relations Board to consider 35 charges filed against the company by fired or disciplined Walmart workers. On Nov. 18, the NLRB Office of General Counsel found merit to some complaints of violations of the National Labor Relations Act by Walmart and approved complaints asserting that the corporation violated workers’ rights.
The NLRB.gov blog says: “The Office of the General Counsel has authorized complaints on alleged violations of the NLRA. If the parties cannot reach settlements in these cases, complaints will issue.” The OGC agreed that Walmart representative David Tovar, speaking on national television last year, threatened reprisals against employees intending to strike or protest on “Black Friday.” Also, stores in 13 states had “unlawfully threatened, disciplined or terminated workers for engaging in legally protected activities,” and Walmart stores in four states had punished or fired employees for nonstrike activities.
Making Change at Walmart said on Nov. 21 that “the Board will prosecute Walmart’s illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers.”
These brave workers have demanded that this global company pay decent wages, improve working conditions and show them respect on the job. The majority of employees earn under $25,000 a year, while the company annually rakes in profits of $17 billion. Members of the owning Walton family have more than $144 billion in assets and boast of four slots on Forbes’ list of the 10 richest people in the U.S.
No trickle down for workers
On average, the workers earn $8.81 per hour. Many are involuntarily placed on part-time schedules. With incomes so low, many rely on federal food stamps and Medicaid coverage
Last year, hundreds of workers decided they had had enough mistreatment and went on strike on “Black Friday.” Other job actions have taken place since then, including strikes. Supported by OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart — both linked to the Food and Commercial Workers union — as well as Occupy Wall Street and other youth, political and community groups, many demonstrations swelled to the thousands.
Importantly, the public increasingly backs these struggles, out of solidarity and because so many workers are themselves still dealing with the economic crisis and a jobless or low-wage “recovery.” Fierce company reprisals are only increasing Walmart workers’ resolve and community support.
Ultimately, it is the class struggle that will make gains for Walmart workers. Although the workers are rightfully trying every avenue they can, governmental agencies and the legal arena can’t bring complete resolution of their grievances and “settlement” talks won’t achieve higher pay or end workplace abuse.
Despite the NLRB’s charges, Walmart’s superexploitation of its employees continues with no let-up — and no conciliatory moves. The workers must keep forcefully pushing back. Any gains they make are because they are taking action. There is no substitute for pressure by workers; they can slow down, stop working and walk out. Moreover, they are building solidarity at their workplaces and at other Walmart stores. The bosses fear this growing solidarity as much as they fear unionization.
“Black Friday” demonstrations occurred again this year on Nov. 29 around the country. Workers World Party joined several and encouraged participation as an act of solidarity with Walmart workers. Their struggle boosts all workers, organized and unorganized, including underpaid workers in all industries.