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Union-backed groups have been leading protests at Walmart stores across the country in the last few weeks, and the retail giant is not happy about it.
The strikes began in October at a store in Los Angeles and have spread to stores on both coasts and many places in between. Last week, employees walked off the job at several stores, and a nationwide protest is planned for Black Friday.
In an attempt to block the protests, Walmart has called on the National Labor Relations Board. The company is asking the NLRB to put an end to the picketing and the Black Friday plans. But the request may come too late.
The NLRB is the government agency that oversees workers' rights and employer-union relations. Walmart employees aren't represented by unions, but the protests have been led by several groups that are backed or supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Walmart is asking the NLRB to stop the protests, citing a rule that prohibits picketing for more than 30 days without filing a representation petition. That petition would formally ask Walmart employees if they want a union.
But employee groups Making Change at Walmart, OUR Walmart and watchdog group Corporate Action Network claim the company uses retaliatory tactics against employees who complain about unfair working conditions.
If that's true, Walmart could have a bigger problem than they expected. Employers cannot discourage employees from complaining about working conditions or retaliate against them.
Employee complaints about working conditions, including scheduling and pay, are protected by the National Labor Relations Act.
An employer that retaliates against employees who make reasonable complaints could be found in violation of the NLRA. As the NLRB investigates Walmart's request, reactions to employee complaints about work conditions may become an issue.
So far, the organizers of the protest aren't worried about Walmart's NLRB filing, reports Reuters. The Black Friday protests are still on the schedule.