Wal-Mart's Labor Rights Headaches Are Adding Up

Walmart, America's favorite purveyor of affordable clothing and military-grade weaponry, is currently struggling with a couple of troubling labor disputes.

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Walmart, America's favorite purveyor of affordable clothing and military-grade weaponry, is currently struggling with a handful of troubling labor disputes. On Tuesday, a trio of women filed the latest of several sexual discrimination lawsuits against the Arkansas-based conglomerate claiming that they had been overlooked for promotions and received lower pay because of their gender. The plaintiffs, all of whom are from Tennessee, say that they were denied management training, and one of them even says her manager told her that "men needed to earn more." And they're not alone.

A cadre of female Walmart employees are currently trying to assemble a class action lawsuit against the company for gender discrimination. Along with the Tennessee trio, workers from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi have joined together and are working with the Barrett Johnson law firm to move the case through the courts. This isn't the first time that something like this has happened to Walmart either. In fact, it's the third. In the past year.

Last year, a case involving female Walmart worker made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Walmart vs. Dukes began with a 2001 class action suit in San Francisco involving 1.6 million women who claimed that the big box store systematically discriminated against women. After the court ruled against Walmart, the case bounced around in appeals court for a decade, inspiring a book in the process, before finally making it to the high court who ultimately ruled in Walmart's favor. The women's allegations "were too varied to show the company engaged in a specific nationwide pattern and practice of gender bias," to quote the Associated Press.

But this time around, Walmart's labor issues go much further than gender discrimination. In addition to the Tennessee case, the company has been dealing with a particularly determined group of workers, hundreds of them, who have been striking outside of a Walmart warehouse in Elwood, Illinois since mid-September. The list of grievances runs from unsafe working conditions to widespread sexual harassment. "I told the supervisors about it, but they definitely don't listen. One supervisor I had tried to tell said, 'I didn't see that.' Just because you didn't see it, doesn't mean it didn't happen," former Elwood warehouse employee Samantha Rodriguez told The Nation. "When I went to another supervisor about the harassment, he asked me out on a date. I said no, and eventually I got fired."

So what's a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate to do about all this? Well, send in the riot police when applicable. Otherwise, lawyer up and hope the Supreme Court's still on your side.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.