When the news broke earlier this month that Wal-Mart started organizing its store supervisors against Barack Obama and other pro-worker candidates who support the Employee Free Choice Act, there was widespread outrage -- and rightly so.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
"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.
Yikes! This obviously raises a lot of questions, but let's start with two I want to specifically address: Is this legal? And what is Wal-Mart afraid of?
But before we begin - more than 24,000 people have already signed a citizen petition to the Federal Election Commission asking for an investigation into Wal-Mart's electioneering. Can you add your name to our letter?
Question one: Is this legal?
In two days, workers' rights advocacy group American Rights at Work and others will ask the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether Wal-Mart broke any laws. You can join the complaint by signing a petition to be submitted on Thursday.
A labor law expert says that the law "provides multiple layers of protection to insulate workers from any possible pressure to mold their political behavior to suit the boss' desires." Not only should Wal-Mart employees need to feel free to vote how the please in November, but other companies need to be discouraged from doing the same as Wal-Mart. Our petition to the FEC will try to bring some resolution to this issue.
Unfortunately for Wal-Mart workers, this kind of intimidation is nothing new. It's actually part and parcel for Wal-Mart's business plan. When Wal-Mart employees stand up for themselves and try to form a union, they face threats, propaganda, discrimination, intimidation, and even firings in retaliation.
What Wal-Mart is doing for November's political elections is what it, and hundreds of other anti-union companies, do all the time when workers say they want a union: intimidate workers to go against their own self-interests.
This isn't Wal-Mart's first foray fighting the Employee Free Choice Act. As the largest member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, Wal-Mart is vicariously supporting and funding a $30 million campaign attacking pro-worker candidates who support the Employee Free Choice Act. Additionally, Wal-Mart has a working relationship with the leader of another $30 million anti-union operation.
While the Bentonville behemoth denied funding this group, Wal-Mart does admit it "exchanges union information" with the group, and apparently collaborates on "'special projects' related to defending Big Tobacco, defending mercury poisoning, and other right-wing causes."
Question two: What, exactly, is Wal-Mart afraid of?
Wal-Mart is afraid of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for workers to join unions. The bill does what it name says: it gives employees a free choice if they want to join a union. For decades, that choice has rested only with employers like Wal-Mart. You can guess what their answer usually is.
Why is the Employee Free Choice Act so important for regular Americans? It's plain as day: workers are struggling in this country. Today's workplaces are tilted in favor of lavishly paid CEOs, who get golden parachutes while middle-class families struggle to get by. The Employee Free Choice Act will restore balance in the workplace, giving more workers a chance to form unions and get better health care, job security, and benefits.
Corporate interests are fighting the Employee Free Choice Act with everything they've got. They're protecting the status quo -- a rigged system that allows employers to intimidate, harass, and even fire workers who try to form a union. We're not talking about isolated incidents: 30 percent of employers fire pro-union workers during union organizing drives.
More than half of U.S. workers--60 million--say they would join a union right now if they could. Why? They know that coming together to bargain with employers over wages, benefits, and working conditions is the best path to getting ahead. Without labor law reform, economic opportunity for America's working families will continue to erode.
So join our complaint to the Federal Election Commission and demand accountability from the world's largest employer. Let's take this first step to bring back fairness to America's workplaces.