The day after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. named a former advisor to President George W. Bush to head its corporate and government affairs division, two activist groups filed complaints accusing the retail behemoth and its suppliers of poor labor practices.
In more than 30 allegations of unfair labor practices filed with the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday and Thursday, the Our Walmart advocacy organization accused the chain of trying to silence protesting workers.
The complaints claim that the company retaliated against, disciplined, intimidated, surveilled and sometimes terminated employees in six states, including California, after the workers voiced opposition to various Wal-Mart activities.
One allegation focused on a worker who had recently been named Associate of the Month at his Southern California store. After the young man went on strike during the Black Friday shopping rush, his bosses allegedly told him his performance was lacking and terminated his employment.
Separately, the Warehouse Workers United group Thursday accused a warehouse that stores suitcases from Wal-Mart’s Protégé brand of mistreating employees.
In a complaint to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the group alleged that workers at Olivet International’s Mira Loma facility encountered leaks in forklift propane tanks, blocked fire exits and other violations.
Riverside resident Dulce Garcia, 21, has worked at the 455,000-square-foot site for a year moving, taping and opening boxes, she said in a phone interview Thursday.
She said she has been asked to work inside dark containers with only the light from her cellphone. The facility had little air – no fans or air conditioning – and also lacked cold water to drink, she said. The restrooms had no toilet seats or paper – “just ugly,” she said.
Boxes are stacked in high towers – “God forbid there’s an earthquake,” she said. Packages weighing 50 pounds have fallen on her, she said
She said she has considered finding a new job but needs the stability of her current position to help provide for her 2-year-old son.
“The only reason I still work here is that it’s the only job I have,” Garcia said.
Olivet could not be reached for comment. Wal-Mart did not immediately respond to the allegations.
[Updated, May 24, 9:30 a.m.: “Walmart is committed to ensuring that all workers in the supply chain can work in a safe environment,” said spokesman Dan Fogleman in a statement. “We purchase merchandise from many suppliers, both domestically and internationally and hold them all to the same high standards.”]
The company announced Wednesday that Dan Bartlett, 41, would become its new executive vice president of corporate affairs, overseeing communications, government relations and sustainability efforts for the retailer.
Bartlett previously served as chief executive of business advisory firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ U.S. branch. Prior to that, he was a senior counselor to Bush, in part managing White House communications.