Walmart Workers Organizing

Employees at the world's largest employer are forming their own association. They are on facebook and twitter, too. Their leaflet says:

"Organization United for Respect at Walmart is a movement of, by and for Associates. On Tuesday, June 7th, Associates across the United States came together to talk about the lack of respect we experience and what we need to do to bring change to Walmart." They encourage all present and former employees [Walmart calls them "associates"] to join. They are wisely seeking help from other coalitions and organizations, and National Jobs with Justice is on board.

Scott Vinson of UFCWLocally, the United Food and Commercial Workers, which has a long history with Walmart, supports the new OUR Walmart Association. Organizer Scott Vinson came to the KNON "Workers Beat" radio talk show with two associates, Shaw and Nicky, on July 24. Shaw and Nicky talked about their difficulties as Walmart employees. Most people don't know about the low pay and lack of respect that Walmart employees get. Nicky and Shaw also said that many if not most employees are "part time" so they can never make a full 40-hour paycheck, let alone any time-and-a-half overtime. The company is being sued for discrimination against women, and has been accused of flagrantly breaking labor law.

Should people shop at Walmart, or is there a boycott?

There is no AFL-CIO boycott of Walmart. The company has made such a nasty reputation for itself that many people instinctively oppose them, but many many people, especially low-income people, shop there. The old days when United Food and Commercial Workers activists gave us the impression that we should not shop there are gone. After all, the emphasis doesn't need to be on what bad employers they are. The emphasis must be on what can we do about it in a positive way!

The best way to improve working conditions at Walmart is to help the employees organize, and OUR Walmart is the best way so far to accomplish that. We can't get the employees to organize while we are telling people to boycott their store (and their jobs) at the same time!

Should we wear union colors when we shop at Walmart?

Scott Vinson says we should. It's a good idea to let Walmart employees know that other people have improved their lives by joining and supporting their unions. But, does that mean that we should try to engage Walmart employees in conversations about unions while they are at work? Shaw and Nicky told the KNON radio audience that they should not, because management would eagerly fire them if they were seen talking to union people!


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