As anti-Walmart protesters gear up for as many as 1,500 demonstrations on “Black Friday” this week — a significant escalation from an estimated 1,200 last year — a Maryland judge has moved to weaken their efforts by barring the activists from property owned by the retail giant.
Judges in four other states have also issued injunctions against the United Food and Commercial Workers union, one of the organizations calling on Walmart, the nation’s largest retail employer, to raise worker pay to an average of $25,000 per year rather than the approximately $18,000 it now pays.
The groups also want Walmart to stop retaliating against workers who speak out against the company's low wages.
The National Labor Relations Board this month found that the “big box” chain had “unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees" in 13 states for taking part in demonstrations favoring better wages.
The Maryland injunction also requires protest groups to post $10,000 bond — more than half an annual salary for an average Walmart employee — which would be forfeited if any of them set foot on Walmart property.
The bans in other states go even farther, the Baltimore Sun reports, restricting demonstrators from doing anything that might impede access to a Walmart store, whether the protests are on corporate land or not.
Since mid-October, workers have gone on strike at Walmart stores in six states, started by an 80-employee walkout at a Hialeah, Fla., Walmart which won raises, albeit small ones, for workers.
The Black Friday protests are not strikes, however, simply demonstrations. But Walmart says the actions are illegal.
“We certainly respect the right of people with differing opinions to express those opinions, but what the unions are doing clearly goes beyond what the law allows,” said company spokesperson Kory Lundberg.
A recent study showed that Walmart could raise the average worker salary to $25,000 per year with no impact on the company’s bottom line or on prices, simply by stopping its $7.6 billion program of buying its own publicly traded stock.
SOURCES: Baltimore Sun, MSNBC, Demos