Whoa, scary unions! I thought Wal-Mart was going to turn into a warm fuzzy, green company? I guess that was only a marketing strategy, and not anything based in facts.
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.
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The irony of course is that Wal-Mart workers could do with a little wage increase, the kind of wage increase that unions often can negotiate for its members. A majority of Wal-Mart workers live below the poverty line.
A Substantial Number of Wal-Mart Associates earn far below the poverty line
- In 2001, sales associates, the most common job in Wal-Mart, earned on average $8.23 an hour for annual wages of $13,861. The 2001 poverty line for a family of three was $14,630. [“Is Wal-Mart Too Powerful?”, Business Week, 10/6/03, US Dept of Health and Human Services 2001 Poverty Guidelines, 2001]
- A 2003 wage analysis reported that cashiers, the second most common job, earn approximately $7.92 per hour and work 29 hours a week. This brings in annual wages of only $11,948. [“Statistical Analysis of Gender Patterns in Wal-Mart’s Workforce”, Dr. Richard Drogin 2003]
If there was an actual Justice Department, instead of a puppet, politicized Bush-loving agency, somebody might actually investigate Wal-Mart for violating the law.
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.
and re: Wal-Mart’s warm, fuzzy side, there are nearly as many corporate-loving Democrats as Republicans, right? I doubt the liberal Democrats (all ten of them) are getting much Wal-Mart cash.
Wal-Mart has been trying to burnish its reputation by improving its worker benefits and touting its commitment to the environment. On the political front, it’s hedging its bets, spreading its financial contributions on both sides of the political divide.
Twelve years ago, 98% of Wal-Mart’s political donations went to Republicans. Now, as the Democrats seem poised to gain control in Washington, 48% of its $2.2 million in political contributions go to Democrats and 52% to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks political giving.
Some other fun Wal-Mart facts:
Wal-Mart closes down stores and departments that unionize
- Wal-Mart closed its store in Jonquierre, Quebec in April 2005 after its employees received union certification. The store became the first unionized Wal-Mart in North America when 51 percent of the employees at the store signed union cards. [Washington Post, 4/14/05]
- In December 2005, the Quebec Labour Board ordered Wal-Mart to compensate former employees of its store in Jonquiere Quebec. The Board ruled that Wal-Mart had improperly closed the store in April 2005 in reprisal against unionized workers. [Personnel Today, 12/19/05]
- In 2000, when a small meatcutting department successfully organized a union at a Wal-Mart store in Texas, Wal-Mart responded a week later by announcing the phase-out of its in-store meatcutting company-wide. [Pan Demetrakakes, “Is Wal-Mart Wrapped in Union Phobia?” Food & Packaging 76 (August 1, 2003).]
Wal-Mart has issued “A Manager’s Toolbox to Remaining Union Free,”
- This toolbox provides managers with lists of warning signs that workers might be organizing, including “frequent meetings at associates’ homes” and “associates who are never seen together start talking or associating with each other.” The “Toolbox” gives managers a hotline to call so that company specialists can respond rapidly and head off any attempt by employees to organize. [Wal-Mart, A Manager’s Toolbox to Remaining Union Free at 20-21]
Wal-Mart is committed to an anti-union policy
- In the last few years, well over 100 unfair labor practice charges have been filed against Wal-Mart throughout the country, with 43 charges filed in 2002 alone.
- Since 1995, the U.S. government has been forced to issue at least 60 complaints against Wal-Mart at the National Labor Relations Board. [International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Internationally Recognised Core Labour Standards in the United States: Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of the United States (Geneva, January 14-16, 2004)]
- Wal-Mart’s labor law violations range from illegally firing workers who attempt to organize a union to unlawful surveillance, threats, and intimidation of employees who dare to speak out. [“Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Price We All Pay for Wal-Mart,” A Report by the Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, 2/16/04]