Wal-Mart has filed a lawsuit in Fort Worth against a labor union that the company claims has staged “confrontational and abusive” demonstrations at stores around the country over the past year.
“They have screamed through bullhorns, paraded around with banners and signs on sticks, conducted in-store ‘flash mobs,’ and diverted management and local police from their normal job functions,” the lawsuit said.
The union, United Food and Commercial Workers International, has tried to organize Wal-Mart workers and accused the company of mistreating its employees by paying them little and offering poor benefits.
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart, North Texas Jobs with Justice, Lester Eugene Lantz of Dallas and 10 people who are identified only as “Does.”
Wal-Martsaid the two groups are affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Lantz is identified in the lawsuit as “chief organizer” of Jobs With Justice.
Wal-Mart’s attorneys said the Does are protesters who the company has not yet identified.
Wal-Martsaid the protesters “enter onto Wal-Mart’s private property (and oftentimes inside Wal-Mart stores), disrupt operations, refuse to leave when instructed to do so by Wal-Martmanagement and leave only when forced to by police or the threat of police intervention.”
The lawsuit includes numerous examples of what it claims was disruptive behavior at stores in Dallas, Fort Worth, Irving, Lake Worth, Rockwall, Garland, and other locations.
In one case, on the busy shopping day known as “Black Friday,” about 50 protesters in two buses arrived at a Fort Worth Wal-Martstore carrying “anti-Wal-Mart” signs.
The protesters have ignored “cease and desist” orders sent by Wal-Mart, continue to trespass at stores and some demonstrations “have turned confrontational and abusive,” the lawsuit said.
For example, on April 24, around 15 demonstrators lined up outside a store in Kissimmee, Fla., and chanted loudly, “Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart, f*** you!” according to the suit.
The lawsuit, filed in Tarrant County District Court on Friday, seeks to prevent the defendants from trespassing on Wal-Mart property in the future to “engage in activities such as unlawful picketing, patrolling, parading, demonstrations, ‘flash mobs,’ handbilling, solicitation, customer disruptions, and manager confrontations.”
A Wal-Mart spokesman, Kory Lundberg, said the company had filed similar lawsuits in several other states.
"No reasonable person thinks it's OK to walk into a business and try to disrupt it by frightening customers and disrespecting the people working there," he said.
After Wal-Mart filed a similar lawsuit in Florida, Jobs With Justice said the company was trying to silence its legitimate protests.
"With $16 billion in annual profits, Wal-Mart can afford to create good jobs for workers at its stores," Jobs With Justice said on its website. "But instead of creating good jobs with steady hours and affordable healthcare, Wal-Mart is focusing its energies on infringing on freedom of speech.
Others named in the lawsuit did not immediately return calls for comment.
More: Read the lawsuit here