Will Wal-Mart’s Union Lawsuit Silence or Strengthen the Haters?

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Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) is not a company unfamiliar with labor unions. Over the past year, the retailer has dealt with a significant number of strikes and union protests, most notably from the national Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart. The group organized at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in May and especially made news on Black Friday last year when employees walked off the job at multiple stores to protest unfair labor prices and poor pay.

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Now, the retail giant is taking its own stand. It filed a lawsuit in Fort Worth against a labor union for its “confrontational and abusive” demonstrations at Wal-Mart’s stores across the country. The union, United Food and Commercial Workers International, voices the same complaints that OUR Walmart has charged its employer with: mistreatment of employees with little pay and inadequate benefits.

And OUR Walmart is also being named as a defendant in the case, along with North Texas Jobs with Justice, Lester Eugene Lantz of Dallas, and 10 other people identified as “Does,” NBC said.

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And this isn’t the first time the company has filed a lawsuit. It has also done so in several other states, such as Florida, where Wal-Mart charged union groups with the same complaints.

Now the retailer is claiming that the unions have demonstrated disruptive behavior at stores in Dallas, Fort Worth, Irving, Lake Worth, Rockwall, Garland, and other locations. According to Wal-Mart, the protesters “enter onto Wal-Mart’s private property, disrupt operations, refuse to leave when instructed to do so by Wal-Mart management and leave only when forced to by police or the threat of police intervention.” The company claims that it wants defendants to stop trespassing on Wal-Mart property during their demonstrations.

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Wal-Mart has already made flagrant assertions about these unions in the past. When questioned about OUR Walmart’s organization at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in May, spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan, argued: “The Union and its subsidiary, ‘Our Walmart,’ is comprised of a few number of people, most of whom aren’t even Walmart associates and don’t represent the views of our associates. This latest publicity stunt by the unions to generate attention for their fleeting cause won’t impact the festivities.”

But whether these union protesters are legitimate Wal-Mart employees or not, recent reports show that associates have reason to complain. According to a report released earlier in the month titled, “The Low-Wage Drag on Our Economy,” Wal-Mart has more workers enrolled in the state’s public health care program in last year’s last quarter than any other employer. The associates have continually protested for a greater number of full-time jobs with predictable schedules and wages that could help them provide for their families.

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Now Wal-Mart is contending they’ve simply taken it too far, as the lawsuit charges that the protestors “have ignored cease and desist” orders sent by Wal-Mart, continue to trespass at stores, and some demonstrations “have turned confrontational and abusive.”

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