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Labor Groups File Complaint Against Wal-Mart

By Matthew Mosk
The political action committee run by Wal-Mart has split its $1 million in donations roughly evenly between Democrats and Republicans during this year's campaign cycle, a marked shift from four years ago when more than $3 of every $4 dollars the PAC gave went to Republicans.

But claims that the massive retailer is using more discrete methods to champion Republican candidates this year have led to a complaint with the Federal Election Commission., American Rights at Work, Change to Win, and the AFL-CIO jointly filed a complaint with the FEC this morning alleging that Wal-Mart engaged in unlawful federal election activity by using mandatory meetings to discuss political issues and candidates.

"Wal-Mart may be the world's largest retailer, and America's number one private employer, but it is not above the law," said Meghan Scott, spokesperson for "Wal-Mart has intimidated its workers and attempted to scare them into voting against a particular party and candidate, and from what workers tell us, these meetings haven't stopped. This behavior proves that Wal-Mart is willing to go to any lengths to put profits ahead of its workers."

Scott said in a prepared release that the meetings, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, left many Wal-Mart workers feeling bullied and intimidated.

Wal-Mart officials did not immediately return a call to its corporate offices seeking comment. Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar told the Journal that the company's policies are clear and that if anyone representing the company told associates how to vote, they were "wrong and acting without approval."

"We welcome the FEC looking into this, because we are confident they will find what we have known all along, that we did nothing wrong," Mr. Tovar said.

By Web Politics Editor  |  August 14, 2008; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , The Green Zone  
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Informative take by blogger Stuart Acuff:

On Friday, August 1, The Wall Street Journal reported that Wal-Mart stores had held mandatory captive audience trainings to demand their supervisors and management employees vote against Democrats because a Democratic Congress and President would pass the Employee Free Choice Act to allow workers - including Wal-Mart workers - to decide for themselves whether or not to form unions and bargain collectively.
Presumably, those supervisors and managers would pass on the message to hourly workers - a violation of federal labor law. Ironically, much of the media was aghast at this intimidation and the blatant manipulation of Wal-Mart employees' most basic decision in a democracy - who to choose to represent and lead our country.

Ironically, because Wal-Mart routinely uses this kind of intimidation and manipulation and much more hard-edged retaliation every time any one or more of their workers thinks about or begins a discussion about whether to form a union.

In fact, at the first hint of union activity or discussion, 15 members of a Wal-Mart anti-union "hit" team get on a private jet in Bentonville, AR, to fly to the store and use intimidation, threats and firings to stop the union activity immediately.

Wal-Mart is America's best known corporate bully. They have bullied small towns across the heartland. They've bullied small businesses, pushing many out of business. They bully their suppliers and vendors. They've long bullied their workers. Now they are bullying their supervisors and managers. Most importantly and most dangerously, they are bullying America's political system.

But they are not alone. It is now a routine and accepted practice for America's employers and corporations to do anything to stop their workers from freely forming unions. Firing worker leaders, threatening to fire others, threatening to close or move worksite, changing shifts, moving union supporters to harder jobs, cutting hours, even physical intimidation, are now commonly used arrows in the quiver of American companies and anti-worker consultants. And American labor law and the federal agency designed to enforce it, the National Labor Relations Board, are powerless to stop them.

American labor law is broken, and it is hurting workers, our economy and our society. Wal-Mart's behavior is the best example of just how badly we need the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would allow workers to form union without fear of retaliation. Alone, no worker has the power to stand up to a massive corporate bully.

But it is not just individual workers who suffer. Our society and our economy suffer as well.

As the economists and pundits debate whether we are technically in a recession or just headed for one, the living standards of American workers are dropping faster than George Bush's approval ratings.

- In 1980, the average American CEO made 40 times as much money as the average worker. Today it is 500 times more than the average worker.

- There are 20% more Americans living in poverty today than at the end of the last century when Bush took office.

- We have 47 million Americans without health care - more than in 1965 before we created Medicare.

And while our productivity has increased by 75% since 1973, our wages have stagnated, flatlined, even declined.

All this tracks very closely to the 30-year corporate and government assault on workers and their unions, collective bargaining and the freedom of America's workers to join and form them.

So rather than just send all of us a one-time stimulus check that most of us just passed on to the banks and credit card companies, the Congress and the President must take serious, fundamental and real action to strengthen the economy by restoring our right to bargain for better wages and benefits with our employers.

The Employee Free Choice Act will do that.

The Employee Free Choice Act will do three simple and common-sensical things:

1. It will impose real penalties on employers who violate federal labor law. Today there are no effective penalties.

2. Once workers form a union, it will ensure that they are able to win a union contract by allowing them to seek neutral mediation and arbitration if the employer refuses to bargain in good faith.

3. The Employee Free Choice Act will allow workers to join or form a union as easily as the employer can join the Chamber of Commerce - simply by signing a card or petition. And when 50% plus one sign up, the union is established.

We cannot solve America's economic problems by squeezing the middle class, forcing more and more Americans into poverty and further weakening buying and spending power. We must empower workers to form unions, bargain with their employers for the dignity of the middle class, and rebuild the greatest economic engine in history, the American labor movement and America's middle class.

Senator Barack Obama has promised to do just this.

Posted by: i4Design | August 15, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Preview your Comment

Sure are a lot of ignorant comments posted here. Big difference between an endorsement and 'vote my way or the hiway' from employer. walmart cannot tell people how to vote, there are consequences. They cannot threaten employees with job loss if they disobey. What the hell kind of country do you morons want? Does freedom mean anything anymore? Go read the constitution, the bill of rights. If you still think walmart is right go join them in China, you'll like it there with that attitude

Posted by: racom | August 15, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

"Oh and Labor groups don't tell their members who to vote for? If not, why the endorsements?"

There's a difference between an endorsement saying candidate "A's" policies a better then candidate "B's" policy's and doing what Walmart it doing which is, "a vote for Obama will mean there's a good chance that you or some of your fellow Walmart employees will loose their jobs". Do you see a difference?

Posted by: Michael | August 15, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Freedom of Speech is for the individual - not a corporation.

Unions are for the most part not the employers of the people they protect.

Get it?

Posted by: i4Design | August 15, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Wal Mart fired me as soon as I signed up for there 300,000.00 dollar life insurance benifet. They have no intentions of letting Obama tax their rich asses.

Posted by: ghost dancer | August 15, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Oh and Labor groups don't tell their members who to vote for? If not, why the endorsements?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 14, 2008 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Where would those losers work if not for Walmart? Where would the economically incapable shop if not for Walmart? Unions suck.

Posted by: c rider | August 14, 2008 7:29 PM | Report abuse

AFL-CIO can go to hell.

Posted by: Union Scum | August 14, 2008 6:30 PM | Report abuse

I can believe Walmart does this.

My daughter works for Walmart. Walmart is changing the title of the employees that unload trucks, making them reapply for their jobs at a cheaper salary. No wonder Walmart profits are up 17%.

Posted by: Celtic50 | August 14, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

What about AARP? All of their commercials are hugely slanted toward Democratic candidiates and paltforms. How come someone isn't investiagting AARP - the largest union in the U.S. ?

Posted by: Paul | August 14, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I don't believe it is all right for WalMart to have done this but where are the lawsuits against the labor unions for doing the same thing, where are the IRS investigations into the African American churches collecting for Obama and campaigning for him?

Posted by: Robert | August 14, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

According to at least some reports (apparently from a taped talk given in a store), the manager outrighted lied about what the law was and what the law would be changed to. This isn't really a free speach issue; this is about a company that is lying to prevent its employees from unionizing, which is illegal. I don't see why anyone is even trying to defend Wal-Mart here; what they did was indefensible.

Posted by: Noble | August 14, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

What Wal-Mart wants its employees to do what ninty five percent of all Republicans do and that is vote against their own economic self interest.

Posted by: Ronnn | August 14, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

It has come to no surprise that Walmart is doing this. They are the worst company to work for. They really don't care about their employees. This isnt the only investigation on them right now. Serves them right.

Posted by: X-employee of walmart | August 14, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

All of Wal-Mart's misbehavior in the past does not figure in this case. I think the legal issue is whether Wal-Mart can talk to hourly employees such as department managers as well as managers who are salaried. They apparently have a right to do so with salary but not with hourly employees.

What Wal-Mart is doing is against the law and I am sure that the penalty makes it worth it. If each of us used our creative minds we could find ways to not make it so worthwhile for the company.

Posted by: Gator-ron | August 14, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

How could these employees possibly feel bullied and intimidated. When they vote it is done secretly. No WalMart supervisors will be looking into the booth to see how they vote.

This is just another example of democrats trying to shut down any opposition to their candidate.

More importantly, this is a freedom of speech issue. A company has a right to speak about the policy positions of political parties and the effect those policies will have on their business.

Posted by: mfiedler | August 14, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Boycott Walmart. They are a bunch of scumbags. They treat their employees like China treats its citizens and braine wash their customers. ("Always the lowest price" hahaha - and most consumers fall for that BS) I have avoided walmart studiously for years (starting shortly after Sam died) and prefer to pay less at other retailers for slightly better products!!!!

Posted by: yard80197 | August 14, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

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