Decision unlikely around Walmart pickets by Thanksgiving

Chain filed complaint against union last week

(Reuters) — The National Labor Relations Board said it is unlikely to make any decision before Thursday's Thanksgiving Holiday on Wal-Mart Stores' push to stop protests and rallies outside its stores, the United States labor board said on Tuesday.

At the same time, OUR Walmart, the organization that has been staging the protests, filed its own charge with the NLRB, saying Wal-Mart was illegally attempting to deter workers from participating in strikes against the world's largest retailer on Friday.

The immediate issue is whether workers will be able to stage major protests at Walmart discount stores on "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving that is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.

Wal-Mart CFO Charles Holley last week called Black Friday "the Super Bowl" for retail.

OUR Walmart is a coalition of thousands of current and former Walmart workers that wants better wages, benefits and working conditions.

Wal-Mart, which has faced months of protests and rallies outside its stores, filed an unfair labour practice complaint last week against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) asking the National Labor Relations Board to halt what the retailer says are unlawful attempts to disrupt its business. Wal-Mart argued the job actions are backed by the UFCW.

In a statement on Tuesday, the NLRB said it was continuing to investigate Wal-Mart's complaint.

"The legal issues — including questions about what constitutes picketing and whether the activity was aimed at gaining recognition for the union — are complex," the statement said.

The field office considering the case expects to complete is investigation on Wednesday and send its findings to the NLRB Division of Advice in Washington for further analysis.

"Under these circumstances, the Office of General Counsel does not expect to make a decision before Thursday on whether or not to seek an injunction to stop the activity," the statement said.

It was not clear whether the NLRB would be able to get a hearing before the Appellate Court on Thanksgiving, a federal holiday, if it sought an injunction. Most Walmart stores will be open all night on Thanksgiving into Black Friday.

"We understand that the multi-state, multi-faceted nature of the union's conduct and the Board's desire to perform a thorough review of the facts means that a decision will take a bit more time," Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman said.

According to a filing with the Labor Department, OUR Walmart was a subsidiary of the UFCW as of 2011.

The UFCW helped OUR Walmart get started with financial and technical assistance, which is reflected in the 2011 filings, but the language in the 2012 filing will not be the same, UFCW spokeswoman Jill Cashen said.

In its own complaint filed on Tuesday, Our Walmart said the retailer has told store-level management to threaten workers with termination, discipline and/or a lawsuit if they strike or engage in other job actions on Black Friday.

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