The mega-retailer misinforms and tells managers to tattle on employees who discuss organizing.
By Aaron Cantú / Alternet
A set of internal documents leaked on January 15 revealed that Walmart is attempting to win the hearts and minds of its employees by scaring them out of joining OUR Walmart, a collection of Walmart workers who have organized strikes on behalf of all the company’s most vulnerable employees.
The propaganda campaign is aimed at Walmart’s managerial staff, the corporation’s last line of defense in barring its low-wage workers from organizing for higher pay and better conditions.
“Is OUR Walmart really here to help you? NO,” the PowerPoint slides booms, warning of a $5 monthly dues to join the organization—a completely optional fee—and brandishing the group’s ostensible ties to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
As OccupyWallSt.org notes, the designation of OUR Walmart as a union would allow the corporation more leverage in how it handles striking workers: Under the National Labor Relations Act, if a unionized employee strikes for “economic reasons” (such as an employer’s failure to reach an agreement over wages or other workplace conditions), the company can hire “permanent replacements” to fill in for the protesting worker.
However, OUR Walmart is not a recognized union—it is an informal collection of Walmart workers, or “associates,” as the company calls its lowest-rung employees, who have been spurred into action by decades of poor company treatment.
The documents also school managers on how to legally handle workers’ discussions of unionization, encapsulating its advice with the acronym “TIPS”: managers cannot Threaten, Interrogate, Promise, or Spy on organizing workers, or the company would run the risk of a lawsuit. Instead, managers are urged to “report union activity to [Walmart’s] Labor Relation’s hotline immediately.”
The “TIPS” were conjured by Walmart corporate in the wake of news in November that the company was being prosecuted by the National Labor Relations Board for firing, disciplining, and threatening 117 associates who went on strike or attempted to unionize in 2012.
The presentation ends with a checklist of five early-warning signs for managers to watch for that may indicate associate’s intentions to organizing, including “negative discussion about wages and benefits.”
Walmart, the largest employer in the country, racked up $447 billion dollars in revenue in 2011, and six members of the Walton family possess more wealth than the entire bottom 30% of Americans. Nevertheless, the majority of its workers make less than $25,000 a year—around the poverty line for a family of four—and a study found that Walmart’s wages are so low they actually cost taxpayers a significant chunk of change to pay for workers’ public assistance.