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Walmart Inc. sees a chance to resolve a long-running fight with labour organisations, thanks to changes at the National Labor Relations.

A Walmart lawyer contacted NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb (R) in February, seeking to “discuss a potential alternative resolution” to a case with potentially major implications, according to emails obtained by Bloomberg Law. The litigation involves questions about union-affiliated workers’ groups and the limits of peaceful worker strikes on a job site.

The move came around the same time that McDonald’s also started settlement talks in another major labour case involving the NLRB. The company initiated talks with agency lawyers in January about resolving unfair labour practice charges by workers at franchisee restaurants, according to a court filing.

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The outreach by McDonald’s and Walmart suggests that large corporations could see a new opportunity to broach settlement talks with a Trump administration NLRB that’s expected to be more business-friendly. In Walmart’s case, which meant directly contacting a political appointee at the helm of an agency.

Walmart confirmed to Bloomberg Law that Steptoe & Johnson partner Steven Wheeless reached out to Robb to talk about settling the case. Robb responded to Wheeless by asking him to send a letter or email “explaining the issue and why a discussion would be helpful.”

An NLRB spokesperson didn’t respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

The labor board ruled in August 2016 in favor of six Walmart workers and OUR Walmart, a group associated with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union that has organized protests at company stores across the U.S. The board said the workers were unlawfully punished for a “relatively small, brief, peaceful and confined” work stoppage protesting alleged mistreatment by a supervisor and intimidation from management over their efforts to unionize.

That decision is currently on appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for next month.

Lawyers for the workers and OUR Walmart didn’t respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment. It’s not clear whether they have been included in any settlement talks.

Source: A. Kanu



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