Social media appears to be playing a significant role in an epic battle between Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, and an American union that presumably would like to represent Wal-Mart workers, The United Food and Commercial Workers .
The union has channeled worker dissatisfaction with Wal-Mart’s wages, benefits and working conditions into an innovative social media campaign featuring web sites funded by the union called OURWalmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart) and Making Change at Walmart. These sites include a fundraising arm for “striking” Wal-Mart associates, news about alleged poor labor practices by Wal-Mart, and slick videos of associates complaining about their treatment by Wal-Mart. On Tuesday, OURWalmart referred associates to information allegedly leaked by OccupyWallStreet.org on secret Wal-Mart power points that tell managers how to fend off unionization efforts.
OURWalmart has garnered national publicity for labor protests at Wal-Mart stores across the nation and appears to be making some gains, possibly because of Wal-Mart’s seeming overreaction to the protests of associates and the reality of Wal-Mart’s stingy pay and benefits.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Office of the General Counsel recently issued a consolidated complaint against Wal-Mart alleging that the company violated the rights of its employees as a result of activities surrounding employee protests in 14 states. The complaint involves more than 60 employees, 19 of whom were discharged allegedly as a result of their participation in activities protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA guarantees the right of private sector employees to act together to try to improve their wages and working conditions with or without a union.
Wal-Mart contends that most of the associates were fired “for violating Walmart’s attendance policies that apply to all associates. Some of these individuals violated the attendance policy dozens of times in the last six months. In other cases, they were absent from work for more than eight days without letting anyone know when they would be returning to work. The facts present a very different story from what OUR Walmart/UFCW asserts.”
Wal-Mart has responded to the UCFW campaign with its own web site called, OURWalmartFactcheck.com , which states its purpose is “to examine claims and provide facts about the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) – a group funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. This site is sponsored and operated by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.”
Ironically, Walmart’s OURFactcheck.com on Tuesday appeared to need a fact checker.
The web site incorrectly quotes a story in The Daily News Telegram of Worchester, Massachusetts, as reporting that the average the average Walmart associate earns $12.83 per hour, and less than 1/2 of 1% of associates earn minimum wage. Walmart provides a link to the The Telegram story, which quotes Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, as stating: “In Massachusetts … the average wage of a full-time hourly associate at Walmart is $13.86. He also noted that the majority of Walmart employees are full time. Mr. Lundberg said less than 1/2 of one percent of all Walmart associates earn minimum. Walmart’s pay is comparable to other retailers; it has to be to stay competitive, he said.”
There’s obviously a difference between the average pay of a Walmart associate and the average wage in Massachusetts of a full-time hourly Walmart associate.
According to the NLRB, the consolidated complaint against Wal-Mart actually was authorized in November of 2013, but withheld until last week while the Office of the General Counsel engaged in failed settlement discussions with Wal-Mart. Additional charges are under investigation.
The NLRB states that Wal-Mart unlawfully threatened employees with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests during two national television news broadcasts and in statements to employees at Walmart stores in California and Texas. At stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington, the NLRB says that Wal-Mart unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests. At stores in California, Florida, Missouri and Texas, the NLRB says Wal-Mart unlawfully threatened, surveilled, disciplined, and/or terminated employees in anticipation of or in response to employees’ other protected concerted activities.
Note: OurWalmart includes a “legal disclaimer” stating that the UCFW is not trying to organize Wal-Mart workers but merely to “help Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups” in their dealings with Wal-Mart.