Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has sued to stop activists and labor groups who have repeatedly demonstrated at the company's stores in Orlando and around Florida -- sometimes chanting inside stores until police are called.
Wal-Mart workers are not unionized, but the 1.3 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers Union and a subsidiary called OURWalmart have been periodically protesting at its stores across the country for at least eight months, demanding better pay, benefits and working conditions for the company's employees.
Some of the protesters are current or former Wal-Mart employees, and others are members of worker-rights groups and their supporters.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in Orange Circuit court, Wal-Mart asks for a permanent injunction to stop the labor groups, along with a group called Central Florida Jobs With Justice and four individuals, from protesting.
Protesters "disrupt operations, refuse to leave when instructed to do so by Walmart management, and leave only when forced to by police or the threat of police intervention. ... They often scream through bullhorns, carry signs on sticks, conduct in-store 'flash mobs,' and divert management and local police from their normal job functions," according to the complaint.
Demonstrators have protested at stores on New Goldenrod Road and John Young Parkway in Orlando, on 13th Street in St. Cloud, in Hialeah and in Hallandale Beach. There were coordinated demonstrations across the country on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, when protesters urged employees to walk off the job.
The company complains that it has issued trespass warnings and cease and desist letters, but they've been ignored.
OURWalmart member Lisa Lopez, who works at Walmart in St. Cloud, said the demonstrations will continue.
"They're trying to intimidate us associates who are standing up and trying to speak the truth," said Lopez, who was not named in the suit. "It's like they actually own us."
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