Weeks into a wave of historic strikes, and days before a planned Black Friday showdown, Walmart has filed a National Labor Relations Board charge alleging that the pickets are illegal and asking for a judge to shut them down. Walmart is no stranger to the NLRB: labor groups have filed numerous charges there accusing the retail giant of punishing or threatening activist workers, including dozens over the past few months. But this charge is the first one filed by the company in a decade. It will pose a decision for a judge and, even sooner, for the Labor Board’s Obama-appointed acting general counsel, who’s been a lightning rod for past Republican attacks.
The National Labor Relations Board, created by the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, is tasked with enforcing and interpreting private sector labor law. Walmart’s charge, filed Thursday night and reported by Reuters Friday evening, sets two processes in motion. The first, which could take months, is the full investigation and resolution of the allegation, beginning with fact-finding by board agents based in Walmart’s backyard (NLRB Region 26, which covers Arkansas and three other states). The second, which could advance as soon as this week, is the decision whether to grant an injunction restricting strikes against Walmart while the investigation proceeds. Experts say NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon would have final say over whether the board seeks the injunction; if it does, a district court judge will decide whether to grant it.