Wal-Mart’s anti-Obama propaganda campaign

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Hat Tip: By CHUCK BARTELS AND ANNE D’INNOCENZIO, AP

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, denied a report Friday that it had pressured employees to vote against Democrats in November because of worries that a bill the party supports would make it easier for workers to unionize.

The measure, called the Employee Free Choice Act, would allow labor organizations to unionize workplaces without secret ballot elections. It was co-sponsored by Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, and opposed by John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee.

A report in The Wall Street Journal said the Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter — which has rigorously resisted being unionized — had held mandatory meetings with store managers and department supervisors in recent weeks to warn that if Democrats take power in November, they would likely push through the bill, which the company says would hurt workers.

Wal-Mart spokesman Dave Tovar told The Associated Press that the company did discuss the bill with its employees, including what it sees as the negative impact, and noted that the company’s stand on the legislation is no secret.

“We believe the Employee Free Choice Act is a bad bill and we have been on the record as opposed to it,” he said.

But he said the company wasn’t advocating that its employees vote against backers of the legislation.

“If anyone representing Wal-Mart gave the impression… they are wrong and acting without approval,” said Tovar. In fact, he said that Wal-Mart has been working with both Republicans and Democrats.

“Half of our (political action committee) contributions are to members of each party,” Tovar said. “We regularly educate our associates on issues which impact our company, and this is an example of that.”

The reported actions by Wal-Mart raised concerns among labor groups that the company, the nation’s largest private employer with 1.4 million workers, has the power to exert influence in the elections.

“They’re trying to bully the American political” scene, said Stewart Acuff, assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor organization.

Wal-Mart may also be on thin ice as federal election rules allow businesses to push for specific political candidates to shareholders, executives and salaried managers, while prohibiting such actions for hourly workers, which typically include department supervisors.

The Wall Street Journal cited about a dozen unidentified Wal-Mart employees who had attended such meetings in seven states as saying they were told that employees at unionized shops would have to pay big union dues while not receiving any benefits in return.

Furthermore, workers said they were told that unionization would mean job losses as costs rise, according to the report. The report said the Wal-Mart human resource managers who held the meetings didn’t specifically tell the employees how to vote, but made it clear that a Obama victory would mean unionization.

Wal-Mart Watch, a union-backed group that has criticized the company for what it calls skimpy pay and benefits and poor treatment of its workers, said in a statement that the article “demonstrates once again that Wal-Mart intimidates its workers.” The group, which supplied some of the sources to The Wall Street Journal, said the stories cited in the article are “consistent” with numerous reports it has received in the past week.

9 thoughts on “Wal-Mart’s anti-Obama propaganda campaign

  1. Chesapeake

    Great heads up on this.

    Unionization of Wal-Mart has international implications not only in labor laws and wage standards but also in trade, taxation, and immigration. No one in management at any company wants to see Wal-Mart workers organize.

    Dig-in Wal-Mart workers!! May help come from the existing unions!

  2. Chesapeake

    You’re right, brotha. Here’s hoping the existing unions make the necessary aggressive investments to convince workers AND wage the legal battle against the labor practices.

  3. Chesapeake,

    The Union Movement is dangling on the triangulating precipice of Neo-Conservatism and Neo-Liberalism. It will will finally fall if one more anti-worker “free trade agreement” is foisted upon the hemisphere. Obama, despite our enthusiasm for his achievement, will do as he’s done on FISA and offshore drilling, cave.

  4. Chesapeake

    SB,

    While enthused about the historical significance of Obama’s nomination and potential presidency, for the reasons you noted (FISA and offshore drilling) and others, I’m maybe about as enthused as I’m gonna get about what progress will be coming from PA Ave.

    Because I’m not sure, are you saying that unions are being choked out between Neo-Conservatism and -Liberalism? Or, are you saying that unions are thin because they’re hedging their bets between the two?

    If you are saying the former, I agree. On the one hand, neo-liberalism does not understand the impact of strong unions on economies and civil and human rights. On the other hand, neo-conservatism somewhat understands the significance but sees improvement of civil and human rights (including but not limited to living pay, medical benefits, and safe work environments) as impediments to the new world order of free trade and commerce.

    If you’re saying the latter, I would suggest that unions aren’t hedging between the two neo-isms. Instead, they have relinquished some of the fight for their members in favor of partnering with management. The union leaders hedged between their members and their managers. They are losing, plant-by-plant and right-to-work state-by-state, the chips they put on their managers.

    Co-sign: the free trade agreements are killing (figuratively and literally) workers up and down the western world.

    Wal-Mart is a potential rallying point for all unions and the union movement. It could be huge.

  5. TripLBee

    I’m not so sure that we won’t be seeing a resurgence of the union movement. The unpopularity of the GOP is being largely fueled by an economic populism. After almost 40 years of getting screwed by populist talking Republicans, the white working class (the backbone of what little remains of organized labor) is finally waking up to the fact that they’ve been utterly screwed. The dialogue about subsidized health care (which, I believe, will actually happen if Obama wins), assistance against foreclosures, is all part of a new move towards assistance for the working/middle class. Also, there is a huge backlash building against big corporations. Much of the backlash is focused on oil companies, but there’s also a growing anger at drug companies, insurance companies, the health care sector, etc. In a climate where working and middle class people are blaming big companies for their problems (and rightfully so to a large extent) and are demanding the types of services from govt. that used to be provided by unions (shored up retirement benefits, health care, etc.), I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a reinvigoration of unions.

  6. I picked up the paper on vacation specifically because I read this headline. I was like – WHAT?

    But, I knew I shouldn’t be surprised.

    I’m sort of with TripLBee. Obama is the last hope for a lot of folks, even those who don’t realize it. There’s something brewing out here SB, it’s perculating up from the ground.

  7. Brad Nailer

    Next time you into Wal-Mart (and you know you do), look around. If the customers know, they probably don’t care about working condidtions of employees. They care about Wal-Mart keeping the sheves filled with the lowest priced products.

    If this stuff matters to you, then why you you do business with them. When I see their business slip, I’ll begin to believe people care.

    Do you want more jobs in your community and country? Why are buying products made in China?

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