Walmart has been accused of strategically firing active union members throughout the country in an effort to break confidence and discourage people from banding together. The worker organization OUR Walmart, which has been pushing back against the retail giant for over a year now, argues that certain employees were purposefully fired for active participation in union activities. The accusation comes after five employees were fired in recent months right after they spoke publicly about organizing activities.
Undoubtedly, Walmart is a company that famously avoids union organization at all costs. Blogger Karen Olsson points out that Wal-Mart is extremely efficient when it senses that any employees may be organizing. She states:
At the first sign of organizing in a store, Walmart dispatches a team of union busters from its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, sometimes setting up surveillance cameras to monitor workers.
This team has been dubbed the “mobile union avoidance team.” Walmart also carefully screens all of the 2.1 million American employees in its stores to look for signs they may be interested in organizing or starting trouble, the Guardian points out. This close surveillance and nearly complete control of employees’ personal lives and activities forced OUR Walmart to take a different approach to organizing. The organizers never held an officially recognized election and secretly signed up as many members as they could in an effort to have strong numbers before going public, according to the New York Times.
One of the recent faces to appear in this struggle against Walmart and unfair firing practices is Angela Williamson. She was one of five recent employees to be fired, allegedly because of the organizing activities outside of her job. Williamson was let go in May because of “unexcused absences,” the Guardian states. But Williamson did not take Walmart’s action quietly and states that she was told her absences were excused when she took them. She has posted a video on Youtube and written on National People’s Action’s website about Walmart’s unfair practices.
The movement against Walmart looks likely to go to court at some point, although Wamart maintains that workers like Williamson were only fired because of non-union related absences or misconduct at work. Since OUR Walmart is a non-certified group, it can legally meet without the interference of Walmart, at least officially. The “mobile union avoidance team” and the strategic firing of employees is meant to strike fear in the hearts of workers who are often on the brink of financial ruin as it is.
Many workers only make about $16,000 a year and workers like Williamson face serious repercussions if they lose their jobs. She says she could no longer make rent on her apartment. Walmart continues to villainize unions for slowing down growth and pushing up prices and will most likely continue to deny they fire people based on their organizing activity.
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