In case you hadn’t already heard, thousands of Walmart employees are expected to walk off the job before next week’s shopping extravaganza known as Black Friday. The workers are striking to protest suppressed wages, spiking health care premiums, and management retaliation against employee organizing.
This week, an Orlando Walmart store pushed union-busting beyond the limits of the law to intimidate workers from participating in the national strike. The incident involves Alex Rivera, a Walmart employee who was fired in September, two months after he joined an employee rights group called Organized United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart).
Rivera visited the store where he used to work on Wednesday to talk with some former colleagues about the Black Friday strike. While Rivera paused to sip water from a fountain, police rushed up behind him without warning, grabbed his arms, and wrested him into handcuffs, Josh Eidelson reports for The Nation. The false arrest was a direct result of Walmart management falsely reporting to police that Rivera had signed a trespassing warning preventing him from returning to the premises.
As the truth came to light, the outcome was a high-profile embarrassment for the leading U.S. retailer. Once police discovered that no such trespassing warning existed, they grimaced at being mislead by Walmart reps and released Rivera from custody. Rivera recounted his public humiliation and concerns about Walmart employee suppression to The Nation:
It was really humiliating because who would expect being handcuffed in front of a lot of [workers] and customers? [Other workers are] going to say, ‘If I join the [employee] organization and do something like that, this is what’s going to happen to me.’
Last Wednesday wasn’t the first time Rivera has been harassed by his local Walmart store. After Rivera joined the OUR Walmart group on July 20, he said Walmart management began following his every move, increased his workload, prevented him from talking to co-workers during work, and held mandatory employee meetings to bash the OUR Walmart group.
On Sept. 22, Rivera was terminated for correcting his timesheet, something he said was in accordance with company policy and completed “without incident” for three years before becoming an activist.
A Thousand Black Friday Strikes Planned
Returning to what may be the largest Walmart strike in history, a thousand store protests are planned over the upcoming week, culminating on Black Friday, says the employee rights group Making Change at Walmart. Strikes and protests are planned in Chicago; Dallas; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; Washington, D.C.; Oklahoma; Mississippi; Louisiana and Minnesota.
Since their usual union-busting tactics haven’t been enough to squash the uprising, Walmart has petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to halt what it claims are unlawful efforts to disrupt its business.
Through the decades Walmart has been in operation, the retail giant has run an aggressive anti-union campaign. Some tactics are considered legal, while some are clearly illegal, says a 2007 report titled “Discounting Rights: Wal-Mart’s Violation of U.S. Workers’ Right to Freedom of Association.”
Walmart’s anti-employee-organizing crackdown has included showing an anti-union video during new employee training; instituting a 24-hour hotline for managers to report any signs of union organizing activity; surveilling, discipling and firing employees suspected of union activities; and presenting lectures on the “evils of unionism” at stores with organizing activity.
Can The Waltons Afford To Pay Employees More?
At the same time Walmart workers are fighting for economic rights and dignity, the Walton family is the richest family in the country. Together, the Walmart heirs possess more wealth than the bottom 41.5% of American families combined, a stat verified by Politifact.
The bottom-line: Wal-Mart won’t change its anti-worker ways until shoppers demand that it do so.
Please stand with the 99% this holiday season. Don’t shop at Walmart if you can avoid it – and DON’T CROSS PICKET LINES WHILE WALMART WORKERS ARE STRIKING ON THANKSGIVING AND BLACK FRIDAY.