Saturday, August 2, 2008

Wal-Mart Warns Workers Against Obama

The Wall Street Journal (81/1/08) reports that Wal-Mart has recently been summoning thousands of store managers and department heads to mandatory meetings warning about the dire consequences of a Democratic victory in November. The problem? Brace yourself. The Democrats will "likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies–including Walmart."

According to the article, "The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don't specifically tell attendees how to vote in November's election, but makes it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states.

"The meeting leader said, 'I am not telling you how to vote, but if the Democrats win, this bill will pass and you won't have a vote on whether you want a union,'" said a Wal-Mart customer-service supervisor from Missouri. 'I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote,' she said."

Are these meetings legal? Don't expect the Bush administration to investigate on behalf of workers' rights–nor to back the Employee Free Choice Act, which Wal-Mart specifically fears.

The Employee Free Choice Act would give workers the right to unionize as soon as a majority signs cards stating that they want to join a union. Workers would also have the right to have a secret-ballot election. It's their "free choice"–one companies would have to honor.

According to the New York Times, "Labor officials say relying on signed cards rather than the traditional secret-ballot elections will make it easier for workers to unionize. Such elections frequently turn into months of battles between management and labor, with union supporters often being fired."

Naturally, John McCain joins George Bush in opposition to the legislation, which would help arrest the decline in union membership. Barack Obama is for it.

Wal-Mart claims that "...employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation." But Wal-Mart is the prototype for an company whose labor practices cry out for unionization, as meticulously documented by Wal-Mart Watch. Here are two among many examples:

"Health Care: Wal-Mart health insurance coverage lags far behind national average. Nationally, 64% of workers in very large firms (5,000 employees or more) receive their health benefits from their employer. Wal-Mart covers around 50% of its employees. [Employer Health Benefits 2007 Annual Survey, The Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust; Wal-Mart Press Release, 1/22/08]" (This section also focuses on "Letting Workers and Families Rely On Public Programs: "In 24 states, Wal-Mart leads the list of companies with the most employees and dependents enrolled in state-funded health care programs.")

"Labor Relations: Wal-Mart Violated Worker Rights More than 2 Million Times, Minnesota Judge Rules Wal-Mart violated the law more than 2 million times over a six-year period by denying workers time for breaks and forcing them to work "off the clock" for no pay, a Minnesota judge has ruled. Dakota County District Judge Robert King ordered the company to pay $6.5 million in back pay. In addition, Wal-Mart faces fines as high as $2 billion for the wage-and-hour violations. [Workday Minnesota, 7/2/08]"

In the video clip above, Christopher Hayes of The Nation talks with Keith Olbermann about the irony of Wal-Mart's tactics: the very fact that they're able to subject employees to anti-union propaganda demonstrates why workers must free themselves from such intimidation.


Anonymous said...

what this article doesn't say, and I know from experience, is that the unions pressure companies into joining, and once they start getting their dues, they disappear,

Both sides need rights, employees and companies. If Obama wins this election, which he likely will, the rights of companies grow even smaller.

I work for a small company who was slandered and abused by lies by the union trying to unionize our company. It's happening in a lot of places...try reading about how the union was sued and forced to pay 15+ million to a company for unlawful acts in california recently. Or how unite here will have one of their employees who is making 100,000 + a year go work for minumum wage and lie about these small companies. It's a shame, Unite Here and others are taking a good idea (help employees) and turned it into all about money and making up anything to force a company to be unionized!!

Why is Obama for Unions, they pay him of course...

On walmart, yes they have issues, but I'd be shocked if the union does anything other than collect their money

Jeff Tone said...

Perhaps you had a bad experience with a particular union, but I disagree with your generalizations. I am familiar with a teachers and a transit union, both of which, far from "disappearing," have fought tirelessly for the rights and benefits of their workers.

There's nothing wrong with unions supporting Obama due to his support. I'm sure that Wal-Mart supports McCain.

The bottom line is that the wages of the lower and middle classes have either stagnated or gone downhill while CEOs' wages have skyrocketed. At the same time, the power of unions has declined. That's not a coincidence. And the reason that companies like Wal-Mart engage in union busting is that they know that there are unions that will not disappear, but fight for their workers' rights.