Over the past several weeks Walmart has made headlines for employee protests rather “everyday low pricing”. Walmart has opposed unions since they opened in 1962 and there have been several failed attempts to organize the over 1.4 million Walmart employees. The efforts in the past few years are gaining momentum and even Walmart executives have acknowledged their efforts.
Employees of Organization United for Respect at Walmart , OUR Walmart coordinated protests on the busiest shopping day of the year. It involved 1,000 stores, 4,000 members and thousands of others sympathetic to their position. The members of OUR Walmart want more full-time positions, predictable schedules, and respect. The members of OUR Walmart say that they some of the employees aren’t making enough for a decent living. Some of the Walmart representatives rely on government support and food banks where Walmart is a contributor.
The claims against Walmart extend beyond the complaints from the employees. Many activists say that Walmart’s growth has come at the expense of its workers, environment, and the law. The articles sited that since 2005 Walmart has paid $1 billion in damages related to unpaid work. There are also allegations of corruption in its Mexican subsidiary and a potential cover up by Walmart executives. In November there was a fire at a factory in Bangladesh that Walmart uses for sewing clothes. The previous year declined to sign an agreement among retailers that would have improved working conditions.
On Walmart’s side, CEO Mike Duke told Bloomberg that “This tension for me is not a tension.” Walmart executives stand firmly that they are supporting their workers better than their competition and claims that their turnover rate is lower. David Tovar, a spokesman for Walmart said “we have human resources teams all over the country who are available to talk to associates”. Walmart says that their benefits are affordable and comprehensive and overall they are proud of the jobs they offer. The protests on Black Friday only impacted one tenth of one percent of the company’s workforce. If Walmart employees unionize they are risking vacation time, bonus, discounts and other Walmart employee benefits.
Each side of the fight has brought a team of experts to tell their side of the story. Walmart brought in a strategist for the Democratic campaigns to improve Walmart’s reputation. Leslie Dach specifically focused on reducing waste and energy use and supported Obamacare. OUR Walmart is working with ASGK Public Strategies and the UFCW. ASGK is making OUR Walmart a brand and using tactics such as social media to build the base of supporters. Their efforts have been highly organized and effective compared to previous union attempts.
QUESTIONS: Walmart’s strategy to ignore the efforts is not working as it did with other attempts. I questioned if Walmart make OUR Walmart an ally rather than an opponent? Do you think Walmart employees are treated and compensated fairly?