Yesterday, the Supreme Court sided with Walmart in an enormous employment discrimination suit that denied 1.5 million female workers the chance to form a class action to sue the company for billions in damages for discriminatory pay and promotion practices. Walmart’s triumph is just the latest in the corporation’s decades-long campaign to prevent workers from banding together to fight for fair pay and decent working conditions. The corporation’s union-busting has become notorious, along with directly connecting to their sexist practices, appalling working conditions, and menial wages.
For more than 20 years, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the nation’s main union for retail workers, has been trying to help organize Walmart employees. Repeatedly prevented from forming unions, employees are now trying the non-union organizing route, with UFCW’s help. The New York Times reported last week on the “innovative” new group:
The group, Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart for short, says it has quietly signed up thousands of members in recent months, and it is going public this week with a Web site, ourwalmart.org, and a Facebook page. Organizers say they have more than 50 members at some stores, and they hope to soon have tens of thousands of members. Walmart has nearly 1.4 million workers nationwide.[...]
In recent weeks, OUR Walmart has organized gatherings of 10 to 80 workers in Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles and other cities…One big concern, they said, was low wages.[...]
“The managers at our store and others are running over their associates as if they didn’t exist,” [Margaret Van Ness, an overnight stocker at a Walmart store] said. “They treat them like cattle. They don’t seem to care about respect for the individuals. We need to bring back respect.”
Unlike a union, OUR Walmart will not be able to directly negotiate on behalf of its workers, but “members could benefit from federal labor laws that protect workers from retaliation for engaging in collective discussion and action.” Unsurprisingly, Walmart is fighting this new non-union group tooth and nail. Over the years, Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, has spent countless millions shutting down organization efforts.
They spent millions fighting the Employee Free Choice Act in 2008, demanding their workers toe the company line, and are so recalcitrant they even spent $2 million and thousands of man-hours fighting a $7,000 fine from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. When the meatcutting department of a Texas store tried to organize in 2000, Walmart retaliated by phasing out all of its meatcutting departments.
Former Walmart Executive Vice President John Tate may have summed up the corporation’s outlook best when he said, “Labor unions are nothing but blood-sucking parasites living off the productive labor of people who work for a living.”
The OUR Walmart declaration asks only that the company heed the words of founder Sam Walton: “Share your profits with all your Associates, and treat them as partners.”