A Tarrant County, Texas judge granted Walmart a temporary restraining order against the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and its subsidiary OUR Walmart on Tuesday, following the retailer’s allegations of harassment.
"Walmart has demonstrated … that immediate and irreparable injury, loss and damage (for which Walmart has no adequate remedy at law) will result to Walmart in the absence of the requested Temporary Restraining Order," the court found.
The UFCW has attempted to unionize the nation’s largest retailer for years and has used OUR Walmart, a union subsidiary, to organize protests inside and out of Walmart stores across the country. OUR Walmart is registered as a nonprofit organization, which allows it to skirt federal labor laws that restrict unions from sporadic strikes and interfering with business.
The Tarrant County District Court found that the worker center’s activity crossed the line and barred the union or its allies from engaging "in activities such as unlawful picketing, patrolling, parading, demonstrations, ‘flash mobs,’ handbilling, solicitation, customer disruptions, and manager confrontations" on Walmart property.
Texas is the latest state to take legal action against the union and its front groups. Judges in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, and Maryland have all barred the union front groups from entering Walmart grounds, according to Ryan Williams, spokesman for Worker Center Watch.
"Courts in six states including Texas have recognized the OUR Walmart campaign for what it is—a front group and an organizing campaign supported and funded by union bosses," Williams said. "As such, it should be held to the same rules governing labor protests and not be able to sidestep 100 years of settled labor law."
States are not the only government entities that have acted to prevent union disruptions at Walmart locations. A Michigan National Labor Relations Board judge ordered the UFCW to cease its protests after activists were accused of "restraining and coercing" a female Walmart employee in the women’s bathroom of a Dearborn store.
"The General Counsel further prays for such other relief as may be just and proper to remedy the unfair labor practices herein alleged," the complaint said.
The NLRB’s top board could do more to prevent disruptive and dubious protests at retailers, according to Glenn Spencer, vice president at the Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom Initiative.
He urged the board to issue a prohibition against all intermittent or "quickie" strikes, as existing labor law only bars unions from using such tactics. The NLRB’s silence does not just affect Walmart, but all employers, especially small businesses that rely on flexibility to operate.
"While Walmarts have been largely unaffected [by the protests] … short term hit-and-run strikes … make it virtually impossible for employers to schedule workers," he said. "Should the board succeed in legitimizing intermittent strikes … employees could just come and go as they please."
A hearing on Walmart’s permanent restraining order against the Texas labor groups is scheduled for June 16.