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Walmart really doesn't want organizers talking to its workers as actions against the retail giant heat up in advance of Black Thursday. That's no surprise, of course, but still, lying to police to get them to handcuff a former Walmart worker in the store to talk to current workers is a little much.

Josh Eidelson reports that Alex Rivera worked at an Orlando Walmart store until September, when he was on the receiving end of one of those coincidental firings we see so often when workers become activists, with Walmart changing his workload and checking up on him constantly, then firing him for the common practice of correcting his time sheet to account for time he spent helping customers while officially off the clock. Since his firing, Rivera had returned repeatedly to talk to his former coworkers about taking part in Black Friday strikes and protests, which is something that's going to get you kicked out of Walmart in a hurry. This was different, though:

According to Rivera and an OUR Walmart organizer who accompanied him to the store, Rivera was leaning over to drink from a water fountain when a police officer grabbed his arm without warning, put him in handcuffs and led him to an office. Rivera said that the officer told him that Walmart management had informed the police that Rivera had previously signed a written trespassing warning obligating him not to return to the premises. Walmart “lied to the police officer.…” said Rivera. “That’s why they handcuffed me.”

Rivera added that when the store’s “asset protection” manager suggested additional details for the officer to add to the police report, “The police officer told him three times. He said no, I’m not going to add that stuff.” Rivera said that after discovering that the police department had no trespassing warning on file for him, the officer asked the store’s co-manager to produce a copy of it. At that point, according to Rivera, the co-manager backtracked, and the police officer “started making faces” at the manager, and quickly released Rivera’s handcuffs. Rivera and the OUR Walmart organizer said that the officer issued them a trespassing warning against returning to the store, but told them that he never would have handcuffed Rivera if he hadn’t been told incorrectly that he had already violated such a signed warning.

As a union organizer, you expect to get kicked out of anti-union stores like Walmart. But, as Rivera told The Nation, this wasn't so much about getting him out of the store as intimidating current workers: "They’re going to say, 'If I join the organization and do something like that, this is what’s going to happen to me.'" Intimidation and retaliation are exactly how Walmart keeps its poorly paid, discriminated-against workers from organizing. And that's just one of the reasons it's so important to keep fighting the Walmart economy.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 06:55 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.


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