Ah, Wal-Mart: a perennial progressive punching bag. It’s hard these days to find outrage about anything the world’s largest employer does wrong, because come on, it’s Wal-Mart. They’re supposed to be the bad, evil corporation.
Today, though, even I was shocked. The Wall-Street Journal had a disturbing report saying that Wal-Mart is organizing its store supervisors against Democrats and other pro-worker candidates who support the Employee Free Choice Act.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is 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.
Yes, Wal-Mart is apparently telling its employees how to vote. But it gets better – they even mentioned Obama by name. According to the Wall Street Journal:
The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don’t specifically tell attendees how to vote in November’s election, but make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states.
"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.
Is this legal? From a labor law expert:
Electoral law draws a wide arc designed to protect the economically vulnerable from even vague or implicit threats designed to influence voting behavior. Thus federal law in this area provides multiple layers of protection to insulate workers from any possible pressure to mold their political behavior to suit the boss’ desires.
So, what definitely is illegal is for employers to tell workers making an hourly wage how to vote. But we don’t know for sure what exactly how many people Wal-Mart spoke to that qualify under that provision, nor do we have confirmation about what specifically Wal-Mart said.
That’s why there’s now a citizen petition to the Federal Election Commission asking for an investigation into Wal-Mart’s electioneering. Not only do 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.
What, exactly, is Wal-Mart afraid of? The Employee Free Choice Act, a bill Jane wrote about yesterday, which 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. Guess what their answer usually is?
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: initimidating them to go against their own self-interests.
The most ironic part of this news is that Wal-Mart’s political ally, the Chamber of Commerce, sees itself as "David" versus the supposed "Goliath" of unions in the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act.
"This is a David-and-Goliath confrontation, but we believe we’ll have enough stones in the sling to knock this out," said Mr. Steven Law, chief legal officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.