Wal-Mart Terrorizes American Employees


(Aug. 1) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc is mobilizing U.S. store managers to lobby against Democrats in November's presidential election, fearing they will make it easier for workers to unionize, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

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

About a dozen employees who attended meetings in seven states said executives stressed employees would have to pay hefty union dues and get nothing in return, and might have to go on strike without compensation, and warned that unionization could force the company to cut jobs as labor costs rise, the Journal reported.

The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who have run the meetings didn't tell those attending how to vote in the November elections, but made it clear that voting for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, would be tantamount to inviting unions in, the Journals said.

Wal-Mart could not be reached immediately for a comment.

Reporting by Purwa Naveen Raman in Bangalore; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

By David Knowles:

Via The Wall Street Journal we learn that Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, is feeling anxious. It seems that the company is afraid that Barack Obama is likely to be elected the next president. In fact, it's so spooked about the prospect that it's been summoning store managers to meetings in an attempt to scare them about the ramifications of a Democratic administration. The terrifying consequence? If Obama (who supports the Employee Free Choice Act) wins, Wal-Mart employees might unionize.

The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don't specifically tell attendees who to vote for in November, 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.

Wal-Mart's antipathy toward unions is legendary. Over the course of its 48-year history, the company has successfully barred countless attempts by employees to organize for better pay and increased benefits. In fact, the company's aggressive tactics to thwart its employees from receiving better compensation have caught the attention of organizations such as Human Rights Watch, which, in an exhaustive study titled Wal-Mart Is a Poster Child For What Is Wrong With Labor Laws, declared:

Our message is that when the world's largest economy has labor laws that are so weak that it is unable to prevent the world's largest corporation from violating workers' rights to organize, it is troubling.

Indeed, the company is right to feel leery about Obama, who has made his views on Wal-Mart's anti-union stance known in this campaign.

Here's the Illinois senator this past November:

"This is a much broader issue that Wal-Mart, but I think the battle to engage Wal-Mart and for them to examine their own corporate values and what their policies and approaches are to their workers and how they are going to be good corporate citizens, I think, is absolutely vital."

Obama went on to compare Wal-Mart to another mega-chain:

Obama said Costco, a membership warehouse store similar to Wal-Mart's Sam's Club chain, pays its workers more and provides health insurance for more of its workforce than Wal-Mart does.

"If Costco can do that, it means Wal-Mart can do it. And if Wal-Mart does it, then what we're going to see is other companies recognizing that they have some obligations not only to their shareholders but also to their stakeholders, and that's workers and communities in which they're located."

Wal-Mart, whose first quarter profits in 2008 rose 6.9% to a total of $3.02 billion, has not exactly shown the greatest of concern for its employees' well-being. A veritable blizzard of lawsuits have been filed against the company regarding labor relations.

So, will Wal-Mart's management be successful in this bid to keep the company's employees from voting for Obama? Here's how one Wal-Mart employee described the not-so-covert attempt to influence her decision:

"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.

It's also an ingenious strategy. If Obama is elected, Wal-Mart employees won't be able to vote on whether or not they should get a union. Maybe so. Better still, they finally might get one.