Wal-Mart sues union over protests

The retailer says union groups trespassed on its stores to address unfair labor policies, but critics and competitors say the superstore is missing the point.

By Jason Notte Mar 26, 2013 6:29PM
Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, New Jersey / Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesPrices. Laws. Constitutional amendments. Is there anything Wal-Mart (WMT) can't roll back?

Despite trespass laws already on the books that can punish protesters who enter Wal-Mart's stores and that little amendment at the top of the Bill of Rights that protects their presence beyond its parking lot, the superstore decided that suing its foes is the best way to stop an ongoing labor dispute in Florida.

Reuters quoted a Wal-Mart spokeman citing "disruptive tactics" and (the redundant) "illegal trespassing" for pressing the suit against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and a group of current and former employees in a union subsidiary known as OUR Walmart. The suit, originally filed on Friday, has as much to do with criticism of Wal-Mart's labor practices as it does with its property rights claims.

Wal-Mart alleged that the defendants violated Florida law through coordinated, statewide acts of trespass in several Wal-Mart stores over the last eight months. It has asked the court for a permanent injunction against such protests, which have included picketing and flash mobs. It alleges protesters last year projected a video promoting their cause onto one store, passed out literature in another and handed a rotten pumpkin to a store manager in yet another.


Wal-Mart claims it called police in certain instances, but complains that no arrests were made despite law enforcement issuing 30 trespass warrants. That, however, isn't what prompted Wal-Mart to file an unfair labor practice charge against the union with the National Labor Relations Board in November. Nope, what got the retailer all worked up were threats of strikes and a walkout by employees irate about the store's extended Black Friday sales -- presenting a risk to the company's holiday-season bottom line.

The retailer still posted an 8.6% boost in profits for the fourth quarter, prompting unions to suggest that Wal-Mart was dodging the real issue: the average Wal-Mart associate's $8.81-an-hour paycheck, which adds up to a yearly wage of about $15,500 and keeps hundreds of thousands of the company's workers living below the poverty line. Union subsidiary OUR Wal-Mart wants average wages bumped up to $13-an-hour, but non-union Wal-Mart hasn't acknowledged their complaints.

The timing of Wal-Mart's suit is somewhat awkward, especially considering that its competition at Costco (COST) is lobbying for a higher minimum wage, paying its starting employees nearly $3 more an hour than Wal-Mart and considering benefits like health care untouchable. Oh, and Costco just inked a three-year contract with the Teamsters. As much as customers love both Wal-Mart and Costco's low prices, they don't like going through picket lines and hearing about unfair labor practices to get to them. Wal-Mart knows this, but Costco's strategy seems a lot less messy.


More on moneyNOW

Mar 28, 2013 2:25PM
Ghetto-Mart and Sams Poverty Club seem to be doing whatever it can to drive away people, Filthy stores, Empty shelves, lack of personnel, Shotty sub par goods...and now lawsuits against its employees...Your making our job easy Keep it up Ghetto-Mart its great to see about half the cars in the parking lot of our SuperFiltyCenter!...Im the person that keeps getting your Washington PA store fined for stacking up all those shipping containers...:) ...and the group that puts all the boycott signs up around your store. (in areas owned by the public) yes you have them out now but we are watching your every move. This year there will be a big push to drive you out of our community.
Mar 29, 2013 12:11AM
They have to sue the American people, this protest was also put on by everyday citizens and OCCUPY WALL STREET and numerous other groups, Democrats, peace and justice groups. so screw you walmart!!!!!!!!!!!Everybody hates you and what you are doing to workers. Are you going to sue your own employees next. Monsters!
I work in unionized companies, -have done so for many years. Still, 'messy' quite accurately describes the tactics on both sides, -non so 'messy' as the Adolf Coors issues with organized labour...
 see: http://www.corporations.org/coors/
May 8, 2013 6:14PM
Wal-Mart is not a good company at the store-level (I have no idea about corporate.) My local Wal-Mart also suffers from long waits at the checkout; but the store gladly invested in self-checkout stands to reduce labor costs. Although, from what I've seen, these are sort of a novelty; although they are getting used because of Wal-marts underinvestment in checkout.  The Wal-mart parking lot is usually half full as well. I generally would rate their local business as on the decline.  Meanwhile, on the other side of town, you can hardly ever find a close parking spot for Costco on a saturday; because the store is PACKED. ALL of the registers are full; and there is a mad line to use it. The gas station at costco is a long line, it looks like its being rationed.  So compare these two. Costco Vs. Walmart. One hopelessly busy; one hopelessly sh*tty. hmmmm....
Mar 26, 2013 7:50PM
I am always sad when I go to the mall and see the store fronts at victoria secret. The pictures are so seductive and suggestive calling in all the guys to stop and stare. I think the underwear is pretty and fun but the message its sending is inappropriate for a nice day shopping at the mall. It is offensive to me and hard on the young men not to get sucked in. We are naive to believe the message of bright young things is not trying to reach the young kids. and are you forgetting that they teach sex ed to 11 year olds in school now and offer condoms. Why can't we stand up and fight for our kids childhoods instead of letting media rob them. No offense here but It is interesting to see that most of the pro add people are male.  Just saying. 
Mar 27, 2013 12:53PM
THese are terriost tactics by the Union.....where is the southern poverty Law center? they go after every right wing organization...why not the union and its thugs.
Mar 27, 2013 11:09AM

We need Henry Frick back from dead to deal with these Unions!


OUR Wal-Mart what a joke, it's NOT your store, nor is any other business


Also the poverty levels for 2012 were $11170 for a single person & $15130 for 2 in a household, so $15500 is plenty to pay them, if not too much for such unskilled work.


Hopefully rf/nfc tags come soon on every product, then I can just grab what I want and walk out without dealing with a checkout person, thus they can all be laid off and prices lowered.



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