August 4, 2003
WAL-MART’S WAR ON WORKERS:
(Kingman, Arizona) – Wal-Mart will be forced to reinstate yet another worker with full back pay and to notify its one million employees nationwide that it had committed an unfair labor practice as a result of a decision by an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Judge Gregory Z. Meyerson ordered Wal-Mart to rehire Brad Jones in the retail giant’s Kingman, Arizona, Tire and Lube Express (TLE) department. Jones was fired on February 28, 2002 in retaliation for his efforts to organize a union.
A majority of the “”associates””, as Wal-Mart calls employees, working in the TLE at the Supercenter had signed union authorization cards for United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 99 to give them an organized voice on wages, health benefits, scheduling and working conditions, and the NLRB had set a secret ballot union representation election for August, 2000.
The NLRB blocked the election, however, due to Wal-Mart’s systematic intimidation and other illegal tactics against its workers. But the company’s campaign against the union supporters didn’t end. Jones, one of three leaders in the union effort at the store, was a “”marked man,”” according to the ALJ.
The judge found that Store Manager, Jim Winkler, had targeted three outspoken union supporters by directing supervisors to hold them to a higher standard and “”wait for them to screw up.”” Two left and the third, Jones, was singled out by management. Jones was fired two days after receiving a good yearly performance review which included a 4% wage increase.
During the campaign, the judge found that Wal-Mart illegally monitored workers by placing a new manager in the department to carry out illegal surveillance on the workers’ union activities. The manager, who had no experience in an automotive service unit was unable to work alongside the TLE employees as the job required.
The judge also found that Wal-Mart failed to enforce its non-harassment policy against an anti-union worker who was harassing two union supporters. The victims suffered from their colleagues’ harassment about their weight and religious beliefs. Despite several appeals to management to protect the victims, Wal-Mart refused to enforce its policy, although one Bentonville executive insisted the company takes “”complaints of harassment seriously.””
Wal-Mart’s illegal tactics in Kingman, Arizona exposed further illegal threats to workers across the country. The company’s “”Associate Benefits Book”” which outlines eligibility for various benefits expressly stated that associates represented by a union are not eligible for benefits. The Judge ordered that Wal-Mart reprint and amend its benefit book to reflect that union-represented workers’ benefits are determined through the collective bargaining process and that union-represented workers will remain eligible for benefits during bargaining.
Wal-Mart is also required to post notices in every location admitting its violations of the law and promising not to discriminate against union-represented workers. The ALJ decision in Kingman is the first time Wal-Mart has been ordered to make a national remedy to its illegal anti-union tactics.