“I think they don’t want me to actually let people know what’s really going on at Wal-Mart as an associate,” Lopez told me in an interview for the Nation following her June 21 firing. “So they’d rather get rid of me.”
Firings like Lopez’s may not come as a shock — Wal-Mart once shut down a store in Canada after workers there won collective bargaining rights, and it eliminated its entire U.S. meat-cutting department after a handful of meat-cutters at one store voted to unionize. But the alleged retaliation defies an eight-decade-old promise from the federal government to most U.S. workers:
Banding together to improve your workplace, whether you win or lose, shouldn’t cost you your job. That 1935 law — the National Labor Relations Act – is still on the books. But its ban on retaliation today reads more like a cruel joke than an ironclad commitment. A 2009 study released by the progressive Economic Policy Institute found that pro-union workers are fired — allegedly illegally — in at least a third of unionization election campaigns supervised by the government.
As expected, Wal-Mart denies illegally retaliating against anyone. The company claims that some of the discipline was unrelated to the protests — Lopez ostensibly lost her job for violating a food safety policy by bringing the employee handbook into the deli area where she works. And Wal-Mart says other workers were punished not for...