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Wal-Mart files labor complaint over planned worker protests

| Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, took legal action to block employee protests outside stores that might disrupt its business next week at the start of holiday shopping on Black Friday.

Wal-Mart filed an unfair labor practice charge on Friday with the National Labor Relations Board in Washington against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The complaint seeks to halt attempts by the union to have its members disrupt its business and intimidate customers.

The union, representing more than 1.3 million workers in grocery and retail stores and the meat packing industry, said Wal-Mart workers began walking off the job on Wednesday at stores and warehouses in California.

The strikes are the first of what the union said are 1,000 protests planned in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Minnesota and Washington leading up to Black Friday on Nov. 23, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday and traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year.

“Wal-Mart is doing everything in its power to attempt to silence our voice,” union member Colby Harris of Lancaster, Texas, said in a statement distributed by the group. “Nothing — not even this baseless, unfair labor practice charge — will stop us from speaking out.”

Workers are protesting Wal-Mart's manipulation of hours and benefits, efforts to keep people from working full-time and discrimination against women and minorities, the union said in a statement.

“No matter how hard we work, my husband and I can't catch up on our bills,” Charlene Fletcher, a Wal-Mart employee from Duarte, Calif., said in a statement from the union. Her husband, Greg, also works at the retailer.

“We just found out that we are both scheduled to work on Thanksgiving Day instead of being home with our kids.”

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