Non-Union Walmart Workers Strike!
Officially Walmart, a notorious anti-union company, isn’t unionized. All efforts by employees to form legal unions have been crushed. This makes it all the more significant that a recent strike by Walmart employees has spread to 28 stores in 12 cities. Walmart is America’s largest employer, with 1.4 million employees. According to the BBC, there are only two entities in the world employing more workers than Walmart, and they are the U.S. and Chinese militaries. The walkout began October 4th at a Los Angeles Walmart and quickly spread across the county. In mid-September warehouse workers at a Walmart-owned facility undertook successful strike action in Illinois. On October 6th they declared victory after management agreed to their demands and went back to work.
The uniformity of strikers’ current demands suggests the same issues exist in every store. They want Walmart to end retaliatory practices against employees who attempt to organize, as well as better pay and working conditions. They have warned management to meet their demands by “Black Friday” (November 23), or Walmart workers nationwide will walk out. Black Friday is the nation’s largest and busiest shopping day of the year.
The Art of Union Busting
The Huffington Post has accessed a seven-page internal memo Walmart management issued to supervisors October 8th with instructions on how to respond to the walkouts. The memo is peppered with Walmart management jargon, such as TIPS (Threaten Intimidate Promise Spy). However many of Walmart’s infamous anti-labor policies are conspicuously absent. This may reflect management concern over the 20 plus charges of unfair labor practices that Walmart workers have filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The NLRB complaint includes dozens of allegations from employees who claim they were subjected to harassment, cut hours and other disciplinary action when Walmart higher-ups learned that they supported “OUR Walmart,” the United Food and Commercial Workers-backed worker group that organized the recent strikes. According to a 2007 Human Rights Watch report, prior internal documents instructed managers to remind employees that they could be permanently replaced if they went on strike, as well as providing talking points on the false guarantees unions make to workers. Both are violations of current labor law.
Nevertheless the new memo contains remnants of the strategies that made Walmart notorious as a union-buster. Examples include “Coaching By Walking Around” (CBWA). According to management, this is when managers walk through their department to visit with “associates” (i.e. hourly workers). According to workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Walmart managers routinely use CBWA as a surveillance tactic to monitor and deter labor organizers.