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Walmart’s Union (And Document) Woes

As its battle with labor unions goes on, Walmart has taken issue with the fact that the opposing side went public with the company’s tactics in that very conflict.

Via Bloomberg, the retail giant is arguing that labor activists defied an administrative judge’s order when they shared private documents with Bloomberg Businessweek — which used them in a cover story published on Nov. 24 — that contained information about how Walmart combats protests.

On Dec. 9, Walmart filed a motion alleging that the labor group OUR Walmart “intentionally disclosed documents marked and designated confidential” to Businessweek reporter Susan Berfield.

The Businessweek story at issue — entitled “How Walmart Keeps an Eye on Its Massive Workforce” — revealed that the retailer, faced with a series of strikes and protests organized by labor unions, hired Lockheed Martin’s intelligence-gathering service, contacted the FBI, ranked stores by risk level and monitored and internally shared signs of potential employee unrest across its U.S. locations. Bloomberg notes that, in response to the Nov. 24 story, both OUR Walmart and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) called for federal investigations into Walmart’s actions.

For its part, OUR Walmart denies violating the judge’s order, with the group’s co-director, Dan Schlademan, telling Bloomberg: “We couldn’t imagine that Walmart would be happy about light being shined on these kind of tactics they’re using against their employees.” He attests that “nothing that we’ve shared was marked as confidential for the legal case, and therefore, we were within our rights to share those documents [with Businessweek].”

Schlademan added that “Walmart is trying to bully its way to bar any future documents” and intimated to Bloomberg that the retailer’s actions in that regard may compel OUR Walmart to share even more documents.

Jess Levin, a spokeswoman for the UFCW (which is also named in Walmart’s motion), told Bloomberg: “This motion is without merit, and we would strongly suggest Walmart focus on its own questionable behavior instead of making baseless charges.”

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