A national Labor Relations Board judge has ordered Wal-Mart to reinstate 16 workers it unlawfully fired for striking.
Administrative Law Judge Geoffrey Carter also ordered Wal-Mart to pay the fired workers back pay and told it to wipe clean the disciplinary records of 38 other workers whose punishment for striking stopped short of dismissal.
The labor-backed group OUR Walmart filed the complaint against the big-box retailer in 2013 after workers who participated in strikes centered around Wal-Mart’s annual shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Ark., were retaliated against for calling for an annual salary of at least $25,000.
Workers from 26 stores nationwide were illegally disciplined for participating in the protests, the judge found.
Managers at those stores must hold staff meetings at which workers are informed of their right to strike, he ordered. Managers must also read from a script in which they promise not to threaten or discipline workers for exercising those rights.
Wal-Mart, which has argued that the strikes were hit-and-run, intermittent work stoppages that are not protected under federal labor law, said it would appeal the judge’s ruling to the NLRB. Company spokesman Kory Lundberg said Wal-Mart “will pursue all of our options to defend the company because we believe our actions were legal and justified.”
The decision, posted on the labor board’s website late Thursday, arrived one day after the nation’s largest private employer announced raises for more than 1.2 million U.S. hourly workers. The retailer said in October that it would invest $2.7 billion in its workforce over two years.
A fired store employee from the Chicago area, Pooshan Kapil, 23, said he hopes the NLRB upholds the judge’s ruling and orders Wal-Mart to reinstate him. Though he’s found work with a manufacturer, the Wal-Mart job was closer to his home, he said.
If upheld, the ruling would require Wal-Mart to give him about $47,000 in back pay for the 2 1/2 years since it fired him.
“I protested because there were people there who were raising families there on ($19,000 a year) and because they didn’t have the right to retaliate against me,” he said. “We deserve to be making a whole lot more than that.”