Klamath Falls Walmart fires worker who went on strike

Walmart workers Ismael Nuñez and his wife Jennifer Sanchez, take part in a Black Friday rally Nov. 29 outside a Southeast Portland Walmart. Six weeks later, Nuñez was suspended and terminated on what he says were phony accusations.
Walmart workers Ismael Nuñez and his wife Jennifer Sanchez take part in a Black Friday rally Nov. 29 outside a Southeast Portland Walmart. Six weeks later, Nuñez was suspended and terminated on what he says were phony accusations.

A Klamath Falls Walmart store has fired one of the three workers who took part in a late November protest strike.

Ismael Nuñez, along with his wife Jennifer Sanchez, took part in the nationwide walkout, and traveled to take part in rallies in Klamath Falls, Medford, and Portland. The strike was called by the group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) to protest cases of retaliation by Walmart against workers who spoke out about pay and working conditions. Now Nuñez may be one of those workers.

Nuñez says he was restocking frozen food Jan. 16 when his manager told him to go home, saying he hadn’t been working hard enough. With half an hour left until the end of his nine-hour graveyard shift, Nuñez stayed working, and police were called to escort him out. [This is the same Walmart where in December a manager threatened to call police after ordering a group of several dozen high school Christmas carolers to leave the store.]

Nuñez called in later in the day, and was told he was suspended without pay pending an investigation by store manager Kelly Cooper. He says he was given few details of anything he’d done wrong, except for an accusation that he left a pallet of eggs unrefrigerated for two hours on Jan. 4. Nuñez denies it, and says it was more like 20 minutes. [Memo to Walmart: In many countries, eggs are sold unrefrigerated, and they can sit out for days without with no risk to human health.]

It’s unclear what kind of investigation Cooper conducted, and she did not respond to a call from the Labor Press. But on Jan. 26, Nuñez was terminated from his $15.42-an-hour job as an overnight frozen and dairy stocker — after 11 years as a Walmart employee.

“They fired me unjustly,” Nuñez says. “They should stop treating their employees that way. And stop calling the police on their employees.”

Sanchez says police were also called when she tried to collect signatures on a petition.

Nunez has applied for unemployment compensation, and says he plans to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board. It’s illegal to fire a worker for supporting union efforts or taking part in “protected, concerted activity” with coworkers.

“A lot of people just move on and try to get another job,” says Sanchez. “We’re going to try to fight it.”

Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice and Portland Jobs with Justice are appealing to supporters to call Klamath Falls Walmart manager Kelly Cooper at 541-885-6890 and tell her to put Ismael back to work.

DIY ONLINE CAMPAIGN: Ismael Nuñez had begun an online petition urging Walmart to rehire him.

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