Wondering whether it’s important for you to vote in November? The recent actions of America’s largest employer, Wal-Mart, should tell you all you need to know. Wal-Mart claims it wasn’t telling its employees how to vote, and as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, neither will we. But we will ask you to look at what Wal-Mart has been up to and make your own decision about the importance of voting in November.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Wal-Mart has been
mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they’ll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies — including Wal-Mart.
(See Wall Street Journal article.) In a series of mandatory meetings with its management staff, Wal-Mart officials have been standing up and saying things such as: “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.” A Wal-Mart customer-service supervisor from Missouri responded for the article, “I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote.”
Once the Wall Street Journal article appeared, Wal-Mart’s backpedaling began. The company said that “We believe the Employee Free Choice Act is a bad bill and we have been on the record as opposed to it,” but that it wasn’t advocating that its employees vote against backers of the legislation. Spokesperson David Tovar said, “If anyone representing Wal-Mart gave the impression… they are wrong and acting without approval. He said that Wal-Mart has been working with both Republicans and Democrats, donating to political action committees representing both sides of the aisle, and recently promoting some policies that are considered more progressive, such as environmental sustainability, its program to offer $4 prescription drugs and improved benefits for workers. (See Associated Press article.)
What is this bill that has the behemoth Wal-Mart running scared? The Employee Free Choice Act would make it easier for workers to join a union in their workplaces. In a time when paychecks are shrinking, health care is skyrocketing, and America’s workers are struggling to make ends meet, workers in unions earn 28% higher wages on average, and are 62% more likely to have health care coverage. Right now, companies who want to make it harder for employees to join unions can resist tooth-and-nail, by forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings, threatening to move overseas, and delaying elections as long as possible. Thirty percent of employers faced with an organizing effort fire workers for supporting a union. (See Undermining the Right to Organize: Employer Behavior During Union Representation Campaigns.)
Wal-Mart may have inadvertently done workers a big favor with its threats that a Democratic victory in November could lead to passage of a new law making organizing unions easier. Now progressive media and cable shows are giving the right to unionize greater attention, and a petition drive has been launched by pro-union groups asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate Wal-Mart for illegal electioneering ( a charge the company denies.)
(See Huffington Post article.) If you haven’t been paying attention to Wal-Mart lately, don’t think they’re not up to their same old tricks. As recently as June 2008, the New York Times was reporting that Wal-Mart’s conduct has improved significantly enough that some of its opposition was backing off. (See Wal-Mart’s Detractors Come In From the Cold.) Given that unions have funded the leading opposition groups, Wal-Mart Watch and WakeUpWalMart, perhaps Wal-Mart’s apparent softening was just a ploy to distract us all while they geared up to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act. It certainly doesn’t represent a significant deviation from the Wal-Mart we’re used to opposing at every turn.
So, what’s a worker to do? First, join those who want to see the Employee Free Choice Act by signing a petition that will add your name to the expected one million workers who support making it easier to join unions.
Then, join those who are calling for Wal-Mart to be investigated by the Federal Election Commission for violating federal election law. (See Time To Investigate Wal-Mart’s Anti-Democrat Electioneering for more information about this effort.)
And if you don’t think signing petitions is nearly enough, then plan to vote in November. If you’re not registered yet, what are you waiting for?