Monday, May 21, 2007

Wal-Mart Violates Worker Rights, Fosters "Culture of
Fear" to Prevent Employees From Forming Unions

From Democracy Now!:

Wal-Mart says that workers have an opportunity at their stores to freely choose whether or not to organize and that they would be allowed to have a vote within the NLRB process, the National Labor Relations Board. That’s what they were referring to in their response. That is a very disingenuous response to our report, because, although perhaps workers could have a vote, what Wal-Mart does from the moment that it detects union activity at a store, is it responds with a hard-hitting and aggressive anti-union campaign. The company has a union hotline at headquarters that managers are required to call any time union activity is detected. The company sends in a labor relations team, which is a rapid reaction force that comes in from headquarters and starts to have meetings with the workers, telling them about the terrible consequences of union formation, showing them anti-union videos in which unions are depicted as antiquated organizations and union representatives are shown as aggressive and unsavory characters. And the company does not provide a meaningful opportunity for the union supporters and union representatives to respond. It’s not required to under US labor law, and it doesn’t. So workers are bombarded with Wal-Mart's anti-union mantra, repeatedly, over and over again. And that is what they hear. And that does not create a free and fair climate in which to have an election.

Let's put it in the political context. Let’s go back to the 2004 presidential campaign in the United States. What if George W. Bush had unlimited access to the airwaves, to radio, to television? He could have campaign rallies, at which the general public was strongly urged, almost required to attend. And on the flipside, John Kerry was only able to access the voting public by sending campaign workers door-to-door. That is the unbalanced campaign atmosphere of a union campaign at Wal-Mart stores. That is not a democratic process. That is not a fair process.

Click here to watch, read, or listen to the rest of the interview.

Of course, I've said many times here at Real Art that Wal-Mart sucks, and there are countless good reasons for saying so. But this is particularly serious. As corporate globalism continues to ship good white and blue collar jobs overseas in order to take advantage of lower wages, the vast majority of remaining jobs are in the service sector, which is largely unorganized in terms of unions. That means workers, and by "workers" I mean you and me, essentially have to take whatever crap our employers spew all over us, minimum wage, manipulating schedules to avoid overtime, firing arbitrarily, low or no safety standards, no benefits, no retirement, no health care, no raises. I suppose that all seems good from a business perspective, but most of us aren't businessmen--most of us never will be. The only way to get a fair shake from the massive corporations who depend on our labor is to organize, that is, create unions.

Look at it this way. No individual worker can ever negotiate a fair contract with an economic entity as large and powerful as Wal-Mart. It will always be on their terms, no matter what, and their terms will always favor their interests, not yours. But when you have tens of thousands of workers coming to the table as a unified front, these massive entities must take notice. And that's that.

Wal-Mart is well aware of the issues in play here, which is why they're so freakin' paranoid about unions. Right now, the low cost giant can get whatever it wants from workers, and obviously wants to keep it that way whether it's fair or not. Unionizing Wal-Mart is the decisive labor struggle of this era.