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Wal-Mart Picketing Complaint an NLRB ‘Priority’

WASHINGTON — The National Labor Relations Board was working rapidly Monday to determine its course of action in light of a “priority” complaint filed by Wal-Mart Stores against potential Black Friday disruption by union-backed protestors.

Wal-Mart, which until recently dismissed “strikes” by small groups of its employees as publicity stunts, in an unusual move late last week petitioned the NLRB for an intervention to prevent picketing at its stores over the holiday weekend. The retailer in its argument cited labor laws limiting a union seeking representation at an employer 30 days to picket before holding a union vote. Wal-Mart said the United Food and Commercial Workers union is behind the groups of its employees who threatened action, known as OURWalmart and Making Change at Wal-Mart.

“Our statute says we must treat this as a priority over any other charges that we have. So we are putting a lot of resources into this today,” Nancy Cleeland, a spokeswoman for the NLRB, told SN Monday. “We have people in Bentonville to interview people [at Wal-Mart] and we’re reaching out to the union to get their response. We are moving as quickly as possible.”

Cleeland said the agency has set an internal goal to rule on such charges within 72 hours of their filing, but said Monday she was unsure if or when a decision would be made. If the NLRB determined the charge has merit it could seek a court injunction to enforce the law as soon as Wednesday.

Read more: Wal-Mart Workers Launch Protest March

According to Wal-Mart’s complaint, the UFCW violated federal labor law over the last six months “by picketing and threatening to picket Walmart headquarters and numerous Walmart stores and other facilities in various states, together with mass demonstrations, in-store 'flash mobs,' and trespass on Walmart property, intimidating Walmart customers and employees.”

Wal-Mart added that the actions were a means of “forcing or requiring Walmart to recognize and/or bargain with the Union as the representative of Walmart employees, or forcing or requiring Walmart employees to accept or select the UFCW as their collective bargaining representative, without being certified as such.”

The NLRB said it was seeking to determine whether there was picketing at Wal-Mart stores and if so, whether it was done with the intent to gain recognition for a union. Part of the investigation will look at the relationship between UFCW and OURWalmart, the NLRB added.

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