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Friday, August 01, 2008

Wal-Mart Strikes Out

This is all kinds of messed up. From the Wall Street Journal:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim 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. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.

The actions by Wal-Mart -- the nation's largest private employer -- reflect a growing concern among big business that a reinvigorated labor movement could reverse years of declining union membership. That could lead to higher payroll and health costs for companies already being hurt by rising fuel and commodities costs and the tough economic climate.

The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don't specifically tell attendees how to vote in November's election, but make 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....

...Wal-Mart's worries center on a piece of legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act, which companies say would enable unions to quickly add millions of new members. "We believe EFCA is a bad bill and we have been on record as opposing it for some time," Mr. Tovar said. "We feel educating our associates about the bill is the right thing to do."[...]

The bill was crafted by labor as a response to more aggressive opposition by companies to union-organizing activity. The AFL-CIO and individual unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers have promised to make passage of the new labor law their No. 1 mission after the November election.

First introduced in 2003, the bill came to a vote last year and sailed through the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but was blocked by a filibuster in the Senate and faced a veto threat by the White House. The bill was taken off the floor, and its backers pledged to reintroduce it when they could get more support.

The November election could bring that extra support in Congress, as well as the White House if Sen. Obama is elected and Democrats extend their control in the Senate. Sen. Obama co-sponsored the legislation, which also is known as "card check," and has said several times he would sign it into law if elected president. Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, opposes the Employee Free Choice Act and voted against it last year.

Wal-Mart's labor-relations meetings are led by human-resources managers who received training from Wal-Mart on the implications of the Employee Free Choice Act....

...Wal-Mart may be walking a fine legal line by holding meetings with its store department heads that link politics with a strong antiunion message. Federal election rules permit companies to advocate for specific political candidates to its executives, stockholders and salaried managers, but not to hourly employees. While store managers are on salary, department supervisors are hourly workers....

...Unions consider the Employee Free Choice Act as vital to the survival of the labor movement, which currently represents 7.5% of private-sector workers, half the percentage it did 25 years ago. The Service Employees International Union said the legislation would enable it to organize a million workers a year, up from its current pace of 100,000 workers a year....

...Through almost all of its 48-year history, Wal-Mart has fought hard to keep unions out of its stores, flying in labor-relations rapid-response teams from its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters to any location where union activity was building. The United Food and Commercial Workers was successful in organizing only one group of Wal-Mart workers -- a small number of butchers in East Texas in early 2000. Several weeks later, the company phased out butchers in all of its stores and began stocking prepackaged meat. When a store in Canada voted to unionize several years ago, the company closed the store, saying it had been unprofitable for years.
A reinvigorated labor movement is absolutely essential to getting better wages and health care benefits for the millions of Americans who are underpaid and under-insured....or, as is the case with the vast majority of America's largest employer, Wal-Mart, have no insurance at all.

UPDATE: More here.

4 comments: to “ Wal-Mart Strikes Out

  • lisa from wisconsin
    August 02, 2008 1:59 PM  

    yep its true .. i work for wal-mart also.. and attended a meeting just at posted.. its a shame that they have to insult alot of people by swaying one way or the other when it comes to voting.. sincerely yours DEMOCRAT for life...

  • Mitch
    August 02, 2008 2:03 PM  

    Good for you. Don't let them bully you into voting any particular way. It would be exactly as bad if they were in there telling everyone not to vote Republican. They have no business pressuring their employees politically.

    Now, if they were calling mandatory meetings to encourage everyone to join the union if they so pleased, why that would be a whole different story.

  • Anonymous
    August 02, 2008 3:42 PM  

    Wal-Mart has every right to protect it's interests, and let it's associates, who own stock in the Company, know how an administration who is clearly anti-business might effect them.

  • Anonymous
    August 02, 2008 3:47 PM  

    Good for Wal-Mart. God forbid Obama wins. I certainly pay enough taxes and don't want that idiot trying to force me to pay more. Wasn't it his mentor/friend/pastor who said "God Damn America"? I've got to believe that after 20 years of that affiliation, Obama shares many of those same type of thoughts.

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