Union agrees to end picketing at Wal-Mart stores

New York -- Labor groups that have long spoken out against Wal-Mart Stores will stop much of their picketing against the world's largest retailer, though they still plan to continue to push the company to improve working conditions.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW, and OUR Walmart reached an agreement with the National Labor Relations Board, the groups and Walmart said on Thursday.

The labor groups claim that they were not trying to unionize Walmart workers with their actions, which included a small number of Walmart's more than 1.3 million U.S. employees themselves engaging in protests outside of Walmart stores.

The agreement comes after Wal-Mart filed an unfair labor practice charge against the UFCW in November, asking the NLRB to halt what the retailer said were unlawful attempts to disrupt its business.
   
Wal-Mart filed with the NLRB after groups planned major protests at its stores for Black Friday, a busy shopping day. The NLRB did not issue any ruling before that day, and while several protests took place they did not hurt sales, as the Walmart chain of thousands of stores across the United States said it had its best Black Friday ever.

The UFCW and OUR Walmart -- a UFCW-supported group of current and former Wal-Mart workers -- said that they do not intend to have Wal-Mart recognize or bargain with them as the representative of Wal-Mart employees.

The UFCW and OUR Walmart will stop any unlawful recognitional picketing, will stop encouraging unlawful disruptions by other affiliated groups and will stop any picketing at Walmart stores and facilities for at least 60 days.

The agreement is unlikely to make a huge difference to the campaign, as OUR Walmart, the UFCW and others can still publicly voice their concerns without doing anything that would be legally defined as picketing, said John Logan, professor of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University.

OUR Walmart said the agreement does not limit its ability to help employees in their dealings with Walmart over labor rights and standards. The UFCW said that the pact allows the union to continue its support of OUR Walmart and its supporters.

In mid-January, Walmart said that it would give part-time workers the first shot at full-time positions. It also plans to make scheduling more transparent, giving part-time workers the ability to choose more of their own hours.

"Walmart is hearing us and at least starting to make changes that will improve the lives of workers and their families and our communities, and we will continue to raise our voices until there is real change at Walmart," Colby Harris, a member of OUR Walmart from Dallas, said in a statement provided by the group.

Members of OUR Walmart pay dues of $5 per month.