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Invisiblecarbonhoots
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Registered: 09/11/01
Posts: 1,351
Loc: BC Canada
Walmart- a pig of a corporate citizen
    #554220 - 02/17/02 07:01 AM (14 years, 9 months ago)

from Straight Goods


Labour takes on Wal-Mart

The company is already spending millions to beat back threat

Dateline: Saturday, February 02, 2002

From CounterPunch

By Joanne Wypesjewski

Even among its friends, few would say that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) is a radical powerhouse of a union. Yet alone among US labor organizations it has the honor of knowing that every day 2,000 people are warned of its cunning and muscle, of the threat it poses to individualism, free enterprise and the American way.

Those 2,000, on average, are the new recruits assembled daily for an eight-hour orientation preparatory to becoming Wal-Mart "associates". In addition to instruction in Sam Walton's life, philosophy and the Wal-Mart cheer ("Give me a W, Give me an A" and so on, including "Give me a Squiggly", accompanied by Sam's signature butt-shake), they are shown a videotape called "You've Picked a Great Place to Work". So great, in fact, that "unions have been targeting Wal-Mart for years.? Without early innoculation and regular anti-union booster shots, it's implied, any worker might be open to contagion. Alan Peto is one of the stricken. A cashier at a Sam's Club, (a son-of-Walmart membership warehouse chain) in Las Vegas, Peto has become a major in-store supporter of the union organizing drive there. If it weren't for Wal-Mart's relentless alerts, he says, "I would not even have known to go to the UFCW".

"I don't think there's enough brainpower in all of organized labor combined to figure out how to take on Wal-Mart and win-and I don't mean that with any disrespect", an organizer with one of the more activist unions tells me



Behind the speculative hocus pocus that came to symbolize the American economy in recent years, there was always the sturdier and less alluring reality of the service sector. Enron was supposed to have been the dynamo and the future; all the while those distinctions belonged to Wal-Mart. While the Houston energy giant puffed up, then collapsed, the Arkansas discount emporium was piling up a fortune the old-fashioned way: squeezing the lowest prices from suppliers, paying basement wages and flattening competitors by sheer scale.

When it releases its 2001 year-end figures on February 19, Wal-Mart is expected to leap to the Number 1 spot on the Fortune 500, with 1.2 million employees and revenues exceeding $220 billion, making it not only the biggest retailer but the biggest corporation in the world.

Wal-Mart's executives credit their success to low prices, customer satisfaction and respect for the individual. They point also to the company's listing on Fortune's annual poll of "100 best to work for", the result of a random national survey of employees. Wal-Mart's website boasts that the company is "the leading employer of people of color in the United States" and "one of the leading employers of senior citizens and the disabled".

Yet most Wal-Mart employees are moving on out, not up. When Barbara Ehrenreich went to work for $7 an hour at a Wal-Mart in Minneapolis for her book Nickel and Dimed, she did so to test whether the wage would cover living expenses and still allow her to pay rent after one month. It didn't, an experience that might partly explain why 700,000 new people churn through the company each year, representing an annual turnover rate of 70 percent.

This is a company willing to spend half a million dollars per store to stop an organizing drive, and it has 4,382 stores



Last December Wal-Mart agreed to pay $6.8 million to settle lawsuits in twelve states, charging its distribution centers with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. A sex discrimination suit in California accuses the company with systematically favoring men in pay and promotions, a case that could become a nationwide class action later this year.

National Labor Relations Board trials are either pending, under way or recently completed involving stores in Las Vegas; Kingman, Arizona; Newcastle, Pennsylvania; College Station and Jacksonville, Texas; Pueblo, Colorado; Grafton, West Virginia; Orlando, Florida; Alliance, Ohio; Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

There are two ways to consider that NLRB activity. Clearly the UFCW is galvanizing Wal-Mart workers, creating brushfires for the company across the country; just as clearly Wal-Mart is tying up the union in litigation, inviting unfair labor practice charges as a hedge against actual unionization.

"I don't think there's enough brainpower in all of organized labor combined to figure out how to take on Wal-Mart and win-and I don't mean that with any disrespect", an organizer with one of the more activist unions tells me. Look at its size, he says, its turnover, its popularity, its money. This is a company willing to spend half a million dollars per store to stop an organizing drive, and it has 4,382 stores. "What are its weak points? There must be some, but I don't think anyone knows what those are."

The UFCW has no choice but to go after Wal-Mart, if only to defend the wage and benefit levels it has negotiated with other employers.



The UFCW isn't straining to publicize its Wal-Mart campaign, which began about five years ago. If, as some union people say, this is guerrilla warfare, then we're at the stage where the rebels are in the hills, making some daring raids to signal their presence but attempting no major offensives. At the AFL-CIO convention in Las Vegas late last year, Wal-Mart employees spoke from the stage as part of a tableau of workers in struggle, but when earlier I'd asked the UFCW PR man about the campaign, he seemed more intent on steering me toward an upcoming ladies' lunch on another, tidier topic. Unions don't favor struggles with no end in sight, and who can blame them? The UFCW has no choice but to go after Wal-Mart, if only to defend the wage and benefit levels it has negotiated with other employers.

In Las Vegas, UFCW Local 711, with about 7,000 members, represents workers at all the big grocery stores in town as well as some at Rite Aide and other retailers. Wal-Mart employs about 4,000 across the city. There's no small-town business left for it to destroy there, but its fourteen stores (including four 220,000-square-foot Super Centers, which sell just about everything) have an obvious advantage over companies that in another context would be considered corporate behemoths. A top clerk at Albertson's supermarket gets $15.63 an hour, plus full health benefits and pension. "Associates" at Wal-Mart make $8 to $10, at Sam's $9 to $12, in both cases with miserable health and pension plans. Against this, what is the competitor's strategy: consolidate, extract concessions or die, all grim prospects for workers.

Roberta West, president of Local 711, and Bill Meyer, of the UFCW International's strategic programs department, say that whenever the union begins recruiting at a Wal-Mart, management pre-emptively increases wages. It was an uptick in wages for new hires at the Sam's Club that prompted Alan Peto to action. He'd been at Sam's for about five years and hadn't so much minded that he'd had to wait 180 days to qualify for health benefits and one year for dental; or that insurance money was withheld from his paycheck the whole time he was waiting and continued to be extracted every payday afterward. He'd not complained about the $350 deductible (which, with the co-pays, discourages 62 percent of Wal-Mart workers from participating in the health plan); or about the cashier production reports that every week were posted to show how many items per hour he'd rung up relative to other cashiers. He always cringed at the Sam's cheer, though never felt impelled to petition against it. But he and other longtime workers did petition over the wage increases, which didn't apply to them.

After a manager interrogated him, he came into work with a tape recorder, was labeled a "disruptive force" and given a "D-Day", the highest level of discipline Wal-Mart metes out short of termination. In line with the company's other infantilizing personnel policies, the manager sent Peto home to "think about what you did" and to write an essay, or "action plan", about why he wanted to come back to work and what he would do to reform. The next day, his penance having been accepted, he checked out unfair labor practices on the Internet and contacted Local 711.

Two years later the NLRB is about to hear their case. In the interim the store's management has used every tool of the unionbuster's dark art: more anti-union videos, compulsory meetings, anti-union literature dominating the break room, an exemplary firing, excess hirings to dilute the union's voting strength, sprouting of an employee Vote No Committee, one-on-one interrogations, stepped up surveillance of pro-union workers for "time theft", even a "Vote No" addition to the Sam's cheer.

In the store's outdoor smoking area one afternoon in December a woman named Betty who works in jewelry was fighting mad about being followed, being timed on break; about strange things happening in her department, a $123 Christ figurine that she found on the floor, a 14K gold bracelet that wound up amid the trash, items turning up with the wrong price tags.

"We're going to win this thing", she said taking a last deep drag from her cigarette. "Now I better go before they fire me"



She was mad because, not yet qualified for the insurance she'd been paying toward for ten months, she had to lay out $1,300 for dental work; because managers had confiscated her friend Mona's chewing gum; because anyone on the Vote No Co could call in sick, come in late, chew gum and suffer no consequences; because so much was going on that was just "disgraceful". "We're going to win this thing", she said taking a last deep drag from her cigarette. "Now I better go before they fire me."

Driving away I noticed an ad in a bus shelter for "Radio Free Wal-Mart", 1230 on the AM dial, KLAV. The call-in show, put together by the UFCW, airs every Tuesday night from 6 to 7 Pacific time, and streams over the web via www.walmartworkerslv.com.

A recent program featured Marty Levitt, the former unionbuster. As far back as the early 1970s, when it was only ten years old, Wal-Mart was formulating its anti-union policy, Levitt said; he was the management consultant, or "what I prefer to call the corporate terrorist". Since then, he said, Wal-Mart has spent "hundreds of millions of dollars exclusively on unionbusting programs". Talk about a long-term strategy.

Back in Vegas, the UFCW's Bill Meyer tells me, "At times I feel like that Chinaman in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. You know, this may take twenty or thirty years."



--------------------
  -I'd rather have a frontal lobotomy than a bottle in front of me

CANADIAN CENTER FOR POLICY ALTERNATIVES


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InvisibleGabbaDj
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Re: Walmart- a pig of a corporate citizen [Re: carbonhoots]
    #554304 - 02/17/02 10:42 AM (14 years, 9 months ago)

OOoh SHUT UP....

Ive been a member of the UFCW for more than 8 years and they have really done nothing special for me or any of the other members. Their benefits are standard and their wage increases come riddled with shadey dealings like store closures, cut hours and decreses retirement and 401K options.

The thing with WallMart started a long time back when at a Super-WallMart somewhere in bumb fucked Egypt some meat dept. employees were contacted by a Union rep promising great things would happen if they voted to go Union... So they did and WallMart being strictly Non-Union decided to go with "case ready" meat, meaning it is cut and packaged outside the store, cutting the need for an in store Butcher...

The UFCW in all its might has been bashing WallMart ever since they began selling groceries and refuseing to go Union. Why? Because of all the facts and figures youve alrady listed. Wall Mart will soon be at the top of the Fortune 500 list, it is the single largest employeer in the U.S. and it creates alot of money and would make the UFCW the single largest Union bringing in the most money from the average $60 to $80 per month membership fee.

About the UFCW.....
Here in California the UFCW has the largest population and in July of 2001 it signed its newest labor agreement contract with the heads of Californias Grocery Association Lawyers. The new contract is actualy modled after WallMarts plan to do away with the in store butcher and go with "case ready" meat. Before the contract was even signed the UFCW began building two huge processing plants along highway 5 to service every major city and the thousands of miles around them. The new contract gave long term members 5 years of early retirement options and lowered the retirement age by two years. The new contract has a 20 cent higher salary cap but with less vacation/sick time.

Basicaly what theyve done is piss and moan about WallMart for all this time, then went ahead and modled a plan for the future of the Butcher that is the same. The only diference is that these thousands of people working in the plants will never become "Journeymen" butchers and consiquently will never be eligible for the pay that comes with being one. They will make far less than the tens of thousands of us already do and still have to pay as much per month as we do...

Why dont you just not join? Because if you dont you have no job, your monthly dues automaticly come out of your check and non-union stores in california make up only 3% of all stores in this state...


I could go on and on and on and on about this subject, I have been living it because being a Kosher butcher is the only thing Ive got going, being Union is actualy hurting me...... But I have no choice...


--------------------
GabbaDj

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Offlinenugsarenice
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Re: Walmart- a pig of a corporate citizen [Re: GabbaDj]
    #554362 - 02/17/02 12:43 PM (14 years, 9 months ago)

Yeah, Walmart sucks, Kmart does the same type of anti-union propanganda. I think after watching kmart's video, I had this deep instilled drive to fuck up their store. Which I did. I knew this guy who said that he would every night on the way home from work steal as many plants as he could from the front, plus all the other sidewalk specials that they leave outside at night. Shasta, lawn chairs, freezer pops, pottery, etc. Cheap crap basically. But this dude did'nt relent, the dude must have stole at least 500 plants, all of them potted in nice pots, at least a whole pallet of shasta and freezer pops. The dude's apartment was furnished with 10 fold up chinese chairs. You can imagine this dude's garden. Well funded, but still crappy in my opinion. But this almost became a tradition in the neighborhood, people would come hang out with dude, and steal shit from kmart. One time a cop drives by dude at 12 midnight on a deserted road, with dude carrying a tray of about 50 seedling plants, and got away with. Dude broke into the back door of their megacomplex, where they were expanding too. And took the fire extinguisher and smoked out the whole complex. Even this other dude, set fire to kmart twice. People definitely did'nt like kmart. People who worked for them stole digital thermomers, river rocks, peat moss, miracle gro, tents, playstation games. Most of the time dude's would just walk into the store and grab a 4 pack of that really expensive iced coffee. And drink the whole thing walking around the store. Most people will shop at kmart and walmart anyways though. They really don't care about how they treat their workers.


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InvisibleGabbaDj
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Re: Walmart- a pig of a corporate citizen [Re: nugsarenice]
    #555239 - 02/18/02 12:14 PM (14 years, 9 months ago)

EXAMPLE:

Jimmy... I know we dont talk much, and your kinda slow, but due to union laws and afirmative action we had to hire you.
Now I know in the 10 years youve been here youve never been late but you have never bothered to work over, harder, faster or better than everyone else. In fact your the worst employee weve got and you couldnt lead a horse to watter even if the horse wanted to go their...

What Im trying to say Jimmy is, here is your anual raise, bonus and your new promotion to department manager, congratulations, your Union earned it for you....

Union breeds lazyness, stupidity and lack luster leadership across the board.
FUCK UNION... Since the days of the mafia threats and mob mentality Unions have been degradeing our way of life through legel and political bribes to politicians.


--------------------
GabbaDj

FAMM.ORG          C8.com                    http://www.beatsopjefiets.com/   


Edited by GabbaDj (02/18/02 12:15 PM)


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