Labor groups to curtail picketing at Wal-Marts

A worker pulls a line of shopping carts

A worker pulls a line of shopping carts toward a Walmart store in North Kingstown, R.I. (Nov. 13, 2012) (Credit: AP)

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Labor groups say they will end their picketing at Wal-Mart stores for at least 60 days as part of a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board. But they vowed to continue to press the world's largest retailer for better pay and overall working conditions.

The agreement, announced by the board Thursday, comes after the discounter filed a complaint on Nov. 20 with the board against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. It said demonstrations at the stores organized by union-backed OUR Walmart that culminated on the day after Thanksgiving threatened to disrupt business and intimidate customers and other store workers.

OUR Walmart, made up of former and current Wal-Mart workers, filed its own charge with the labor board, citing attempts by Wal-Mart to deter workers from participating in what the group called legally protected walkouts.

At issue were what constitutes picketing and whether the activity was aimed at gaining recognition for the union. Wal-Mart contended such demonstrations violated laws because it claimed the "picketing" lasted more than 30 days and had the intent of unionizing its members.

Union officials have argued the walkouts and demonstrations are to protest what it believes are Wal-Mart's retaliation tactics against workers who publicly speak out about working conditions and wages. The tactics allegedly include scheduling changes and reduction in workers' hours. OUR Walmart had argued that because the planned walkouts are in protest of what it believes are unfair labor practices, workers are legally protected under federal labor law.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. faced a worker walkout last October before its annual investor meeting that expanded to a dozen states, involved about 90 workers and intensified on "Black Friday."

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