Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

Walmart Holds "Captive Audience" Meetings Ahead of Black Friday Strike

As the clock ticks down to Black Friday, Walmart workers allege that management has been subjecting them to captive audience meetings and other forms of intimidation in a bid to discourage them from striking. OUR Walmart, the worker’s association organizing the strike, complained to the National Labor Relations Board, Josh Eidelson reports: 

Today, OUR Walmart filed the latest of dozens of National Labor Relations Board charges against Walmart. The charge, announced this evening, alleges that Walmart’s national headquarters has “told store-level management to threaten workers with termination, discipline, and/or a lawsuit if they strike or engage in other concerted job actions on Black Friday” and that managers in cities including San Leandro, California, Fairfield, Connecticut, and Dallas have done exactly that. It also alleges that Walmart Vice President of Communications David Tovar “threatened employees” with his statements. OUR Walmart says it is seeking “immediate intervention” to remedy the alleged crimes. In an e-mailed statement, American Rights at Work Research Director Erin Johansson said, “Walmart appears to be issuing serious threats to employees to stop them from exercising their rights under law.” [The Nation]

Walmart denies holding captive audience meetings, but Christopher Bentley Owen, an overnight Walmart stocker in Tulsa, told the Nation that management held a captive audience meeting on Monday during which the highest ranking manager read a script warning workers not to strike on Black Friday. 

Captive audience meetings are legal, but management is barred from making certain kinds of threats.

Friday’s strike is expected to be the highest profile event in a series of job actions at Walmart stores across the country. David Bacon of Truthout accompanied some Walmart workers on a walkout in San Leandro, California. A group of current and former Walmart associates marched into the store and arranged flowers near the break room in remembrance of Enrique, a fellow associate who had recently died. After setting up their tribute, they went outside for a brief rally attended by unionized nurses, longshoremen, warehouse workers, and machinists. Community activists also turned out to show their support. 

Three on-duty Walmart associates clocked out to participate in the action. After the rally, the group escorted two of them back to the break room, to make sure their supervisors would let them punch back in. They were allowed to go back to work. 

[Photo credit: Supporters escort Walmart associates back to the break room to punch in after the rally. David Bacon for Truthout.]