Today, the Wall Street Journal highlights what may become a huge story on the reasons behind the recent resignation of Thomas Coughlin, a man who helped start Wal-Mart and who many thought might become CEO. An internal probe launched by a whistleblower suggests that Coughlin had subordinates create fake invoices to have Wal-Mart reimburse him for personal expenses. The story doesn’t end there though:
The tale involves another mystery: the “union project.” Mr. Coughlin told several Wal-Mart employees that the money was actually being used for antiunion activities, including paying union staffers to tell him of pro-union workers in stores…. The fake invoices… were simply a roundabout way of compensating him for out-of-pocket expenses in his antiunion campaign.
If the money was in fact used for antiunion efforts, Coughlin (and potentially executives still at Wal-Mart) would be in violation of the federal Taft-Hartley act. The WSJ reports:
Led by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, labor organizers have tried for years to unionize Wal-Mart’s U.S. workers, who currently number 1.3 million, but they have met with fierce and well-organized opposition.
Last week, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott “admonished his employees in a companywide broadcast,” saying that they absolutely must come forward if a supervisor or friend or anyone is engaging in illegal activity. Just to set a good example, the following day, company brass fired James Bowen, the employee who alerted them to Coughlin’s dealings.