After arguing that the right to strike is protected under the federal law, a National Labor Relations Board judge orders Walmart to reinstate workers fired for being on strike. On Thursday, Judge Geoffrey Carter said that the two strikes the 16 workers took part in in 2013 were lawful and the lay-offs were illegal.
Walmart disciplined the employees for missing work for three days due to the protests. A spokesperson for America’s largest discount retailer said that the ruling was unjust, and that the company would take all necessary steps to protect its interests since its actions were ‘legal and justified.’
The strikes were set in place by OUR Walmart, a group that fights for Walmart employees’ rights such as a decent minimum pay and better work conditions. Hundreds of Walmart employees were coaxed in the protests at several stores and at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville Ark.
The demonstrations, which were named ’The ride for Respect,’ were cleverly timed to occur during Walmart’s annual investor meeting.
In an attempt to justify layoffs, the retailer argued that the absences from work were in fact “intermittent work stoppages” that benefited from no federal protection. Judge Carter argued that the strikes were not intermittent since they were not brief and not slated to happen close enough together to be deemed so.
‘Making Change at Walmart’ hailed the new ruling. A spokesperson for the labor group said that the decision was a ‘huge victory’ against the commerce behemoth since it represented a clear message that workers cannot be easily muted.
The National Labor Relations Board ordered Walmart to call back to work the 16 employees and provide them with back pay. Additionally, the company now must run campaigns to inform its employees on their federally protected right to hold a strike.
On Wednesday, Walmart pledged that it would hike its minimum hourly wage to $10 in February. In 2015, the company rolled out a plan to boost worker’s pay and training opportunities over a five year period. The move was designed to improve customer service across all U.S. stores.
According to the company, the decision will affect all its 1.2 million workers starting Feb. 20. Entry level employees will benefit from the wage rise after completing a special training session. After Feb. 20, the average wage for full-timers working at Walmart will be $13.38 per hour.
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