Last month, workers from warehouses run by Walmart contractors NFI and Warestaff walked off the job and marched from Ontario, CA to Los Angeles to draw attention to unsafe working conditions. Now, employees of Walmart itself have walked off the job in several cities. On October 4, Josh Eidelson reported in Salon:
Today, for the first time in Wal-Mart’s 50-year history, workers at multiple stores are out on strike. Minutes ago, dozens of workers at Southern California stores launched a one-day work stoppage in protest of alleged retaliation against their attempts to organize. In a few hours, they’ll join supporters for a mass rally outside a Pico Rivera, Calif., store. This is the latest – and most dramatic – of the recent escalations in the decades-long struggle between organized labor and the largest private employer in the world.
… Wal-Mart is entirely union-free in North America, and has worked aggressively to stay that way. Today’s strike is an outgrowth of a year of organizing by OUR Walmart, an organization of Wal-Mart workers. OUR Walmart is backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, but hasn’t sought union recognition from Wal-Mart; its members have campaigned for improvements in their local stores and converged at Wal-Mart’s annual shareholder meeting.
They say their efforts have won some modest improvements, but also inspired a wave of illegal retaliation by the retail giant, which they charge is more concerned with suppressing activism than complying with the law.
Christina Wilkie and Alice Hines report in the Huffington Post about a confidential Walmart memo regarding the strikes, which involved workers from 28 stores in 12 cities:
The memo makes clear that Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, views the labor protests as a serious attack, a message that runs contrary to the company’s public comments that the strikes are mere “publicity stunts,” as Walmart’s vice president of communications David Tovar told The Huffington Post Tuesday.
… The majority of the memo is aimed at instructing managers not to violate workers’ legal right to engage in concerted activity, or non-union labor organizing. Managers are directed not to “discipline” employees who engage in walkouts, sit-ins or sick-outs.
Legal experts said the confidential memo shows an unprecedented level of caution from a company that has taken harsh stances towards employee attempts to organize in the past.
Meanwhile, a suit filed by temporary workers in the US District Court of Illinois alleges Walmart and two of its staffing agencies violated overtime and minimum-wage laws.
In other news:
New York Times: Celina Alvarez and Rocio Loyola are just two of the food-service workers who are threatened with losing their jobs if they take a day off sick. New York’s City Council may require employers to provide paid sick days, a move the Times editorial board supports.
Spiegel Online: Kik, the German discount clothing retailer, has offered payouts of just $1,930 per victim for each of the 259 workers who perished in a fire in a Karachi, Pakistan factory that was producing jeans for Kik stores.
Charleston Gazette: Although the Mine Safety and Health Administration has completed work on a final rule addressing black lung disease in miners, records show the Department of Labor has not yet sent the rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which must review it before the final rule can take effect.
NBC Southern California: Jose Melena, a 62-year-old grandfather, was killed by being “essentially cooked to death” in a pressure cooker at the Bumble Bee Tuna processing plant in Santa Fe Springs, California. The company’s CEO posted an open letter about Melena’s death on the Bumble Bee website, and the company closed the plant for three days in honor of Melena.
Huffington Post Blog: Chipotle Mexican Grill has become the 11th company to sign an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program, which increases farmworker pay and establishes a code of conduct, complaint resolution process, and third-party audit system to examine grower compliance.