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AFL-CIO Files Complaint with FEC on Wal-Mart Electioneering


AFL-CIO Files Complaint with FEC on Wal-Mart Electioneering

by James Parks, Aug 14, 2008

The AFL-CIO joined other workers’ rights groups today to file a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) demanding an investigation into Wal-Mart’s intimidation of workers.

The complaint stems from a Wall Street Journal article reporting that Wal-Mart is requiring employees to attend meetings where they are told that if Democrats like Sen. Barack Obama are elected, the Democrats will pass the Employee Free Choice Act . Obama is a co-sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, while his Republican opponent for president, John McCain , opposes the bill.

According to the complaint:

There is reason to believe that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has made prohibited corporate expenditures by expressly advocating against Senator Obama’s election to employees who were not in its restricted class…We request that the Commission immediately open an investigation to determine whether a violation occurred and, if so, to take all appropriate steps to remedy that violation of federal election law.

Wal-Mart is one of the leaders in a well-financed corporate campaign to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act, which levels the playing field and allows workers to make a free choice of whether to join a union without employer interference. You can tell Wal-Mart to stop intimidating workers. Send a message here .

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, noting that “Wal-Mart has bullied its workers and managers for years,” says:

Now it wants to bully the political process, and the FEC should take Wal-Mart’s threats very seriously. Wal-Mart has shown exactly why our nation needs the Employee Free Choice Act. We must outlaw the kind of behavior for which Wal-Mart is famous and give workers a free and fair choice on whether to form a union.

The complaint also points out that the Employee Free Choice Act would go a long way toward rectifying the imbalance that currently exists between workers seeking to form unions and employers that oppose them. Currently, the law fails to effectively protect workers seeking to organize, and employers are able to violate the law with virtual impunity.

Wal-Mart’s actions coincide with a broader effort by corporate groups to stop the Employee Free Choice Act. In state after state, deep-pocket front groups, such as the so-called Center for Union Facts and the Employee Freedom Action Committee, are running ads that assail congressional candidates for their support of the bill.

Wal-Mart is the largest member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, one of the main funders of the $30 million anti-union campaign called “Coalition for a Democratic Workplace .”

The corporate front group came under fire Tuesday from the Brunswick (Maine) Times Record (link) . In an editorial, the paper attacked a new ad by the group as “slick but sleazy.”

They insult (Democratic Senate candidate Tom) Allen, union members, the history of the U.S. labor movement—and the intelligence of all Mainers.

The despicable ads focus on the internal issue of union balloting to distract voters from the coalition’s broader agenda, which continues to hinge on muting workers’ voices during the process of lawmaking. They should require a disclaimer that reads: “Brought to you by the people who fought family leave, collective bargaining, a livable wage, the 40-hour work week and occupational safety laws.”

The workers’ advocacy organization, American Rights at Work , has lots of information on Wal-Mart’s actions attacking the Employee Free Choice Act here and a detailed report here on how Wal-Mart rolls back workers’ wages in an assault on the American Dream. The worker advocacy group also tracks the front groups behind the Employee Free Choice Act smear campaign with info here .

Quebec Wal-Mart Workers Unionize


Quebec Wal-Mart Workers Unionize
Pact Ordered By Labor Board Covers 8 Employees

Washington Post link

By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 16, 2008; Page D01

A small group of employees at a Wal-Mart store in Canada secured yesterday the only union contract with the company in North America, a victory for labor groups that have campaigned for years to organize the world’s largest retailer.

The three-year contract covers eight workers in the tire and lube department of a Wal-Mart in Gatineau, Quebec, and increases starting wages from $8.40 to $10.89 an hour. The contract was imposed by the Quebec Labor Relations Board after negotiations between the company and employees fell apart. In its decision, the board called the contract “reasonable, realistic and equitable.”

“I think the employees at that particular location should be congratulated,” said Michael Forman, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada, which organized the employees. “I think no doubt what’s happening at Gatineau will be encouraging.”

Wal-Mart spokesman Andrew Pelletier said yesterday that the company was still reviewing the contract and its implications for employees.

“Our priority is to continue to run an efficient operation to ensure that we can fulfill our commitment to provide customers the everyday low prices they expect from Wal-Mart,” he said.

The contract is a significant step in the ongoing battle between Wal-Mart and labor groups, which say that the retailer pays low wages and is stingy with health benefits. Earlier this week, the AFL-CIO and other unions filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over reports in the Wall Street Journal that Wal-Mart managers were discouraging workers from organizing and advocating against electing Democrats, who they say are likely to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

That proposal would allow unions to organize through signature drives or by signing authorization cards, similar to Canadian labor laws, Forman said. Companies can request that workers vote by secret ballot. The UFCW and the Service Employees International Union have tried for years to organize Wal-Mart employees and have met staunch resistance from the company.

In 2000, 11 meat cutters at a Texas store won union recognition, the first in the United States. Soon after, Wal-Mart eliminated such positions at 180 stores in six states. It said the two events were not related. In 2005, Wal-Mart shuttered a store in Jonquière, Quebec, after workers voted to unionize. At the time, the company said the employees’ demands would have made it impossible to sustain business.

“U.S. workers continue to wait to get the same respect from Wal-Mart,” said David Nassar, executive director of the union-funded Wal-Mart Watch. “If higher wages, better benefits and fair treatment are incompatible with Wal-Mart’s way of doing business, it’s time for the company to change ## which is what Wal-Mart Watch has been saying all along.”

The UFCW began conducting organizing drives in Canada six years ago, winning union certification of tire and lube workers at the Gatineau store in 2005. A contract is also expected soon for workers in the tire and lube departments and main store of a Wal-Mart in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec. In addition, Wal-Mart began allowing the All-China Federation of Trade Unions to set up outlets in its stores in China in 2006.

In the 1990s, employees at a Wal-Mart in Ontario joined the United Steelworkers union and negotiated a collective agreement with the company. That contract no longer exists, Wal-Mart said.

Staff writer Binyamin Appelbaum contributed to this report.