June 25, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today threw its support behind H.R. 2311—the Worker Anti-Retaliation Act—which would penalize large employers for illegally targeting workers for trying to improve their job conditions.
Earlier this month, Walmart workers went on strike nationwide and caravanned to the company’s shareholder meeting in Arkansas to call for an end to retaliation. In response, Walmart last week illegally fired nearly a dozen strikers and disciplined others without cause. This comes on the heels of a report released by American Rights at Work that details Walmart’s extensive and systematic efforts to silence associates who are speaking out for better jobs.
The Worker Anti-Retaliation Act—authored by Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL)—would expressly prohibit this type of retaliation against workers and give victims the right to back pay, damages, and other civil penalties.
“Walmart is reinventing labor retaliation in today’s economy, the latest chapter in the retail giant’s appalling record on workers’ rights,” UFCW International President Joe Hansen said. “Congressman Grayson’s bill would protect workers from targeting and send a message to all employers that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
“This legislation provides necessary protections to low-wage workers, particularly those employed by Walmart, one of the nation’s largest retailers,” Grayson said. “My bill will protect workers from retaliation by their employers, and provide victims of retaliatory actions with legal relief. Employees of Walmart have little control over their working conditions. They are not unionized, and Walmart has used every trick in the book to prevent them from protesting dismal working conditions and unfair treatment. In fact, Walmart recently fired one of my constituents, who dared to speak out against Walmart’s employment practices. It’s time to put an end to Walmart’s abhorrent mistreatment of its employees—and let workers know that their rights to organize and protest will be protected.”
Grayson’s constituent, Vanessa Ferriera, worked at Walmart for 8 years, until she was fired in May. Ferriera was frustrated with the inability of Walmart to provide the wages and benefits she needed to support her family. So she stood up and spoke out about her concerns. She started meeting with her fellow associates—as part of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart)— to assist in the effort to get Walmart to publicly commit to improving labor standards. Rather than responding to the valid concerns of Ferriera and others, Walmart management began targeting her for speaking out. She was unfairly disciplined for minor errors and interrogated by management whenever she participated in concerted activities with other associates. Walmart claims to have fired Ferriera for taking “extended breaks” but never provided any documentation or evidence of its claim.
Ferriera’s story is the tip of the iceberg. All across the country, unscrupulous employers are actively squashing and suppressing workers who are collectively seeking improvements in their workplaces. These aggressive and unlawful efforts must be stopped and the Worker Anti-Retaliation Act would put in place the safeguards to do so.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.