On October 30, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and a group of House Democrats, including Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and 57 other co-sponsors, introduced the Restoring Justice for Workers Act (H.R. 7109), which would ban businesses from requiring workers to sign arbitration clauses. Employers would not be able to force workers to sign these agreements, and could not retaliate against anyone who chooses not to. It would also be illegal to require workers to waive their right to join a class-action lawsuit or file claims in arbitration as a group.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced a similar version of the bill in the Senate. To make it through both chambers of Congress, the bill would need bipartisan support, but Republican leaders have shown no interest in previous bills aimed at limiting mandatory arbitration.
The Nation Magazine reports today in their “E-Mail Nation” communication that Walmart has filed a National Labor Relations Board charge against the United Food & Commerical Workers Union alleging that the pickets are illegal and asking for a judge to shut them down, weeks into a wave of historic strikes, and days before a planned Black Friday showdown. This also coincides with recent news reports that Walmart is soon expected to offer stock dividends to their shareholders and at a time when stock prices have been hitting all-time highs, in spite of an international bribery scandal that is still unfolding.
Walmart’s letter to the UFCW accuses the union of “enlisting [workers] in orchestrated schemes to disrupt Walmart’s business operations by telling them that federal labor law protects their participation” in strikes that are in fact illegal, and thus could get them fired (the letter also alleges that the protests involve a range of crimes beyond those in the NLRB charge, including trespassing). A Walmart spokesperson drove a similar message home Sunday, telling CNN that if workers don’t show up on Black Friday, “there could be consequences.” The target audience for that statement, and for Walmart’s latest legal salvo, may not be the media, or the courts, or the UFCW, but the thousands of workers who want to see change at Walmart but have haven’t yet decided whether going on strike is worth the risk.