Sacramentans fired by Wal-Mart hope to regain jobs

Former employees terminated for protesting labor practices

Barbara Collins of Placerville and some of her co-workers walked off their Wal-Mart jobs during a strike this past May. The retailer fired her and other strikers, but now they may catch a break from Uncle Sam.

Last month, the National Labor Relations Board general counsel released a statement that Wal-Mart stores in California and a dozen other states “unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests.”

The general counsel did not, however, approve the “merit” of all workers’ beefs against Wal-Mart, from the 2012 Black Friday protests to this year’s most recent shopping-day actions.

Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg called the statement by NLRB, an independent government agency, “one of many procedural steps in this process.”

A source with the NLRB, which protects private-sector workers’ right to protest, expects the next step of issuing a complaint “soon,” if the sides can’t reach a settlement. In that event, the NLRB would issue a complaint for an administrative-law judge to hear the case.

In the meantime, the feds movement on Wal-Mart’s alleged violations has empowered Meiasha Bradley, 26, of Sacramento.

“I feel more protected now,” she said, “knowing that Wal-Mart wrongfully terminated striking workers.”

An hourly Wal-Mart employee, or “associate,” at the Florin Road store for two years, Bradley and three of her co-workers walked off the job in a one-day strike protesting unfair labor practices on November 23, in hopes to improve what she alleges are lousy work conditions.

Bradley spoke out publicly during this year’s Black Friday protest at the Roseville Wal-Mart against its alleged “bullying tactics” of intimidating employees into silence when they question workplace policies.

Collins, 37, who has been employed by Wal-Mart for eight years, was one of 15 protesters that Roseville police arrested at this year’s Black Friday, after a sit-down action in an intersection.

Collins and Bradley are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, a group of dissident workers that formed in June 2011, with members across 46 states in 700 stores. The United Food and Commercial Workers labor union supports OUR Walmart. Why? The union has been witnessing its members at local Raley’s and Save Mart Supermarket stores facing pressure for wage and benefit concessions as the nonunion Wal-Marts grow.

Meanwhile, Collins, who gets jobless benefits now, wants her full-time job back, with employer-provided health care.

“It is a battle, and we are winning,” she said. “We want Wal-Mart to listen to our demands to improve the company.”

Such improvement may be in the eye of the beholder.

“There hasn’t been a single NLRB decision against Wal-Mart in the last five years,” Lundberg said. “That’s because we take our obligations on these matters very seriously.”

“Serious” also describes Wal-Mart’s wealth. For 2013’s third quarter, the company reported profit of $3.73 billion from ongoing business, up 2.8 percent from a year earlier.