Walmart Files Trespass Lawsuits Against Protesters

Walmart trespassing This week, Walmart filed a lawsuit against a labor union in Fort Worth, Texas, accusing members of trespassing on its property, disrupting its business, and even becoming abusive. It's just the latest in a string of similar lawsuits that Walmart has filed in several states. The union claims that the lawsuits are part of a new strategy to halt the protests that have swept through its stores. Walmart says that it's suing to protect its customers.

As OUR Walmart, the United Food and Commercial Workers union and activists have been helping Walmart workers organize and stage walkouts and protests around the country, Walmart has fought back. The country's largest private employer has filed five trespass lawsuits against unions and labor activists (like Denise Diaz, pictured above with her daughter) -- in Florida, Arkansas, California, Washington, and now Texas -- asking for injunctions that would ban protesters, excluding current employees, from entering Walmart stores for any reason other than shopping. An Arkansas judge, in fact, granted Walmart a temporary restraining order against protesters earlier this month, a few days before the retailer's annual shareholders' meeting.

Labor groups responded by filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, calling Walmart's move an illegal attempt to silence speech. That just added to the pile of over 30 allegations of unfair labor practices that OUR Walmart has made against the store in the past month, and is the latest in an ongoing tug-of-war between Walmart and labor groups and activists.

By law, worker groups are not allowed to engage in more than 30 days of picketing aimed at getting union recognition, and Walmart filed a complaint with the NLRB accusing the UFCW of doing just that in November 2012. In January, the UFCW pledged not to try to unionize workers, and the union claims that it only seeks to improve the lot of Walmart's 1.4 million U.S. associates. But Walmart is clearly still ruffled by the ongoing rallies, and is now using the courts to physically ban union organizers from its stores.

"This kind of overreach I haven't seen before," says Erin Johansson, the research director of the advocacy group American Rights at Work, "and for me it's very disconcerting."

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In an interview, Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman said that the lawsuits are "to help protect our customers and their agents from further disruption from the union's illegal trespassing." Fogelman said that Walmart had received numerous complaints from employees and customers alike about the ongoing protests.

But organizers see it as straight-up intimidation. Denise Diaz, executive director of a workers-rights coalition, Central Florida Jobs With Justice, says that she was eating breakfast at home with her 4-year-old child when Walmart served her with a lawsuit, accusing her of trespassing. On one occasion last year, she entered an Orlando Walmart with a group of other advocates to deliver a letter to its manager, requesting that he hire back a worker that Diaz believes was unjustly fired.

"We were really just rational concerned community folks," she says, "having a conversation with the manager."

"What [Walmart is] really concerned about is not where [OUR Walmart or the UFCW] are supposed to be, which is the essence of trespass," says George Wiszynski, a senior attorney at the UFCW. "They're concerned what we're saying when we're there."

More: What It's Like To Work At Walmart

Walmart has taken this legal tack before, over a decade ago, after the UFCW handed out union literature in a national "blitz." In 2002, an Arkansas circuit judge granted Walmart a trespassing injunction, banning UFCW members from "soliciting" in Walmart stores anywhere in the country. The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the decision the following year, saying Walmart had offered no evidence that the union's actions had harmed customers or employees. Now, though, activists are being more persistent and creative, and Walmart insists that real harm is left in their wake.

Walmart customer service manager Derek Flout recounted an incident that he said happened in October 2012. In an interview with Flout (while Walmart spokesman Fogelman listened on the line), Flout said that protesters conducted a "register dump" at his store in Rogers, Ark., checking out merchandise, and then deciding that they didn't want it, forcing him and his co-workers to put it all back. "It's kind of ironic," he said, "that they're making it harder for associates."

Two protesters who said that they were present that day flatly denied Flout's account. "We used a couple of buckets for percussions," says Eddie Iny, a UFCW campaigner. "And I saw people putting buckets back. People really wanted to get their message across and be respectful at the same time."

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I've never seen so many idiots comment on something they know nothing about. God help this country.

June 21 2013 at 1:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good ole WalMart. they will do anything to keep their practices up.

June 20 2013 at 9:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If those are the protesters and organizers in the included photo,none of them look like they would qualify as a outdoor toilet excavator ,much less a good Wall Mart employee.

June 20 2013 at 8:41 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Typical union thuggery.

June 20 2013 at 1:50 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tll4tempe's comment

Idiot !

June 21 2013 at 12:59 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

So if the help gets out of line, call on the goverment and have them snapped back into line as a warning to the others who might want a little more money.

June 20 2013 at 12:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good for Wal Mart. Hope they get their welfare and food stamps also.

June 20 2013 at 12:24 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dave03110331's comment

Intellgent comment !

June 21 2013 at 12:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott Tonn

If you dont like it, go somewhere else. Target, KMart, and many other stores out there looking for workers. If you want $25/hr, you should quit whining and get a better education.

June 19 2013 at 6:14 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Scott Tonn's comment

Idiot !

June 21 2013 at 12:57 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Richard Hoover

i think this whole thing is just plain nuts there is no right to organize and the ufcw is saying walmart is paying substandard wages in most stores with ufcw workers the new ones were paid minimum wages while walmart pays at least 9 doolars an hour the unioins do not care about you they just want your money and give it to the bosses of your union

June 19 2013 at 6:06 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Richard Hoover's comment

You don't know what you're talking about. By the way you spell doolars-Dollars . Idiot !

June 21 2013 at 12:57 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I have an easy solution--if you're not happy with your job at Walmart, get a new one! Slavery's been outlawed for quite some time now.

June 19 2013 at 6:06 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to None's comment

Idiot !

June 21 2013 at 12:59 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

We USED to have a group of stores here that were new, clean, and stocked with products that other local stores didn't have. People drove across the city to shop at these stores and the owners had plans to build them all across the area BUT this was a Super Union Area and the unions took a huge hit when the Steel Mills up and moved to China. They used family members, many just teenagers, to get inside the stores. Then the protests began. When the majority of workers voted against the union the union targeted those employees THEY assumed worked against them. They damaged cars of shoppers. They made it so uncomfortable that shoppers gave up and went elsewhere. Those stores still stand with "For Sale" signs on them. Over 800 employees lost their jobs. No new stores were built. But the moron "Community Organizers" said that the community was better off without them. Wonder if the stupid Boeing union workers will think the same when the new Boeing Super-Plant opens in China? Maybe some of those Union Steel Workers can spell out for you!

June 19 2013 at 4:33 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to LBR's comment
Malinda Wilson Smith

Obama used to be a community organizer. What does that say about him I wonder?

June 20 2013 at 1:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Malinda Wilson Smith's comment


June 21 2013 at 12:55 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down


June 21 2013 at 12:59 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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