Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Walmart Dictatorship: Vote McCain or Else?

It's got Karl Rove written all over it. It smacks of the lowest form yet of sleazy Republican intimidation tactics to disenfranchise voters and influence the outcome of the November election. And it's got right-wing spinmeisters whipped into a mouth-foaming frenzy. We're talking about the behemoth retailer Walmart's alleged threats against its employees if they vote for the Democratic presumptive nominee for president, Sen. Barack Obama. It's all about jobs. So is the world's largest retailer really trying to scare the bajesus out of its 1.4 million workers? 'Vote for Obama and you could be fired.' Is this what it's all coming to?

What apparently has Walmart executives' panties in a snit is the belief that if Obama becomes president it's more likely that its employees will unionize, which is something the notoriously stingy employer fears. Walmart's reputation as a lousy employer is legendary. Charges of low wages, poor benefits and overall workplace mistreatment have plagued the company for years.

At issue now is a bill, co-sponsored by Obama and opposed by the GOP's presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain, that could force the retail giant's hand and serve to appreciably lighten its pocketbook. The measure, called the Employee Free Choice Act, would allow unions to organize workplaces without secret ballot elections, thus making it much easier to turn companies from non-union to union. Should this happen at Walmart, it would cost the company bazillions, eating into its sizable earnings. Wal-Mart recently reported first quarter 2008 profits of over $3-billion, a 6.9% increase over last year. Our collective hearts bleed for them, huh?

So what exactly is Walmart up to? The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the company has been holding mandatory Chicken Little meetings with store managers and department supervisors warning that the bill would likely pass in an Obama administration and that that would negatively impact its workers. To what degree the warnings were issued is not confirmed, but many Walmart employees anonymously have said that the company's message is quite clear: 'a vote for Obama could mean a loss of jobs.' And while the company may not have specifically instructed any of its employees--be they management or rank-and-file--to vote specifically for McCain, the intention is obvious: 'We don't like Obama. We don't like Unions. Obama will unionize us. That will hurt business and result in massive layoffs. We do not want Obama to be president.' They don't need to finish this with, "and if you vote for Obama you will lose your job." The perceived threat is already there. Of course, Walmart denies that it's threatened or intimidated its workers.

As expected, right-wing spinheads are rushing to Walmart's defense. On his national Sirius Satellite Radio program Friday, The Wilkow Majority, Andrew Wilkow emphatically and repeatedly asserted that Walmart, or any company for that matter, not only has the right to maintain whatever size workforce it so desires, but that it would be well within their right to warn employees outright that "If you vote for Obama you will be fired."

In an email exchange, I pointed out to Wilkow that not only is his suggestion unconscionable in terms of voter intimidation, but that it was convoluted in its enforceability. How would Walmart know who their employees voted for? And how, therefore, could they fire only those who voted for Obama? It's moronic no matter how you slice it.

Wilkow replied: "What I said was that a company has the right to inform the
workers of the stark reality of the effect the election may have on their
business. I wasn't endorsing voter intimidation. A company doesn't have
any obligation to maintain a particular number of employees or
production output. If a company feels that the political climate is
going to add weight or cost to doing business a company is free to cut
staff or production. If that is not the case then who is going to force
a company to maintain said levels of production and staff or stay in
business at all for that matter?"

Nice try, Andy, but the words "If you vote for Obama you will be fired" came out of your mouth, not mine. But let's give Wilkow some credit. Maybe after seeing his outlandish rant thrown back at him, he at least had the smarts to realize how irresponsible it was and he immediately backpedaled. I informed him that while a company indeed has the right to maintain whatever staff levels it so chooses, it does not have the right to attempt to control the outcome of an election by threatening its employees with dismissal if they vote for a specific candidate, which is exactly what he was urging.

This sort of tyrannical ploy is taking sleazy Republican politics to a new low, but it's surely not surprising. Republicans are desperate and scared and, like always, will do or say anything to retain power. And its corporate pals like Walmart seem all too willing to help the cause at the continued expense of the little guy. So, when exactly will the little guy learn and stop voting Republican? Perhaps this is the year we finally see an end to that unexplained phenomenon called Reagan Democrats.

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Anonymous said...

Maybe we should tell people there is a greater chance their children will die while on military duty if McCain is elected. Aren't Wal-Mart families from the same demographic section that supplies many of our soldier volunteers?

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget too that the Wall Street Journal had this story on page 1 above the fold prominently displayed amd shown all over cable news. Rupert Murdoch sucks as bad as Walmart.

Maybe he should pay O'Reilly, Hannity, Cavuto, etc. Walmart wages. Even those bastards would want to unionize under those circumstances!

Anonymous said...

To anyone working at Wal-Mart: Vote as you like. In fact, tell your employer of your intentions. After all, this is a pure smoke ring. Besides, telling your employer of your intent is a great way of proving a future firing was retaliatory. Wal-Mart has flouted laws, regulations, and human decency for years. It's time they were taken to task for it.

Anonymous said...

And HOW would Walmart know who you voted for?

I work for Walmart, and I will vote for who I wish (it ain't who they wish). And they can't possibly know who it is I vote for unless I tell them.

It's against the law to prohibit people from voting their own choice.

So fellow WM employees, vote your conscience and forget what your boss thinks. What you do outside of work is your business only. Not theirs.


Anonymous said...

All you anti union folks are only fooling yourselves.

Unions will rise again because of how bad corporate America has been to workers.

We never do anything to fix problems until they have nearly destroyed us.

Anonymous said...

I have two points to make:

1. I live in a small southern town with no stores, so I travel to another small southern town to shop at Wal-Mart. I know from trading there and dealing with the employees that they are not stupid. They know that their vote is secret and there is no way Wal-Mart can know how they vote unless there is criminal voting corruption in their state. What is the big concern??????

In the Wal-Mart I know the staff has been cut. There are fewer cashiers and the air conditioning is almost inadequate. So with the cuts, and the bad economy which causes more people to shop at Wal-Marts all over the country, the company shows profits. The staff still remains very cooperative to customers and helpful in every way. I'm amazed at their good nature if the company boss is so anti-employee.

2. I belong to a union and am a big union supporter and I believe they are a necessity for our country. When I moved to the south I found there are few unions. The only one I know of is the USPS union. I ask my friends, aquaintances and people at the Laundromat and other public places why this is so. I was and am shocked that the reason is that "the people" don't like unions, They say they take too much of their money and do nothing to help them. The fear the prospect of ever being required to join a union. I don't know what gave unions such a bad name down here but it's widespread and there is a need for re-education here. Obviously the workers are suffering without union protection.

Wheh employees want the unioins they will organize and it will happen. Then they probbly will get threats of being fired and they'll have to deal with as people did in the 1930s and '40s.

Anonymous said...

I don't think many Walmart employees will vote for democrats. Walmart's computerized employment questionnaire automatically screens out leaders and independent thinkers.

Anonymous said...

11:47 You never heard of putting on "an act" to get a job? Lying perhaps. You know, like the act Obama is performing.

Anonymous said...

Hello. I find your blog very interesting. Since you have mentioned Walmart here I would like to tell that I do not find it that great as the others may. The thing is that the customer service is far from being perfect. I was going to return the purchase in two days after I bought it and the manager told me I could not do that. What is worse he did not give me the serious grounds for that. I was disappointed and went to this great site to post a complaint.

Anonymous said...

Walmart doesn't screen out leaders and independent thinkers - unions do.

Q:Why would anybody that classifies as a "leader" or "independent thinker" be part of a union ?

A:They wouldn't.

Unions are for people who don't have enough skills to find and negotiate a job on their own. If they did have the necessary skills to find their own job, they wouldn't need a union.

If The Messiah becomes President, the unions will have the power to prevent secret votes to initiate the unionization process. Once secret votes are removed from the process, unions can force via intimidation individuals to approve unionization even if the individual would have never voted for unionization under a secret vote.

Anonymous said...

9:30 Your ignorance is showing.

You can't join a union until you have a job in the union's industry. Actors dream of the day when they can join the Actors' Union AEA so that producers can't leave them stranded when a show closes a thousand miles from their home; so a producer can't force them to share sleeping quarters in a small room with five other actors; so they get a salary that compensates them for their talent and so they can pay their rent back home; so they can't be forced to rehearse all day, perform at night and then do custodial duty in the theater. Unions are a means to keep cheating, and cruelty out of the workplace. They would never have been formed if workers had not been so badly treated. However, to repeat, and actor can't join the union until he has a union job. They also protect the producer. If an actor isn't prepared, doesn't know his lines, misses an entrance, or any other infraction, the union steps in.

Anonymous said...

6:15 PM,
Your ignorance is showing.

To create a union there are steps one must follow. These steps include:

1. Obtaining signatures of 30% of the employee base
Step N. Set the date of a union election

Step M. Obtain union status be getting a 50% plus 1 result in the union election.

The Democrats are pushing for the ability to remove the secret ballot requirement from the union election. Removing the secret ballot provides union thugs and employees acting on behalf of union thugs with a mechanism to peer pressure (bully) employees into signing/voting for the union against their free will.

The people being bullied probably would not have voted in favor of the union because they know that they are going to raped of union wages and not get much benefit out of their union wages. These people would rather vote 'NO', get more of their paycheck, and continue retaining their job based on their skill set - not the union that they don't want.

Anonymous said...

It also could be the fact that Obamination will raise the corporate tax and wal-mart will need to lay off people to make up for the loss.

Anonymous said...

It's got Karl Rove written all over it.

Andy, do you ever, ever have an original thought? Opening lines like this makes it so easy to paint you liberals with a broad brush of only capable of producing empty-headed cliches.

Anonymous said...

I'm a walmart employee and I consider myself to be a leader and very well respected by my peers and managers. However, I choose to vote democrat (Obama), with the knowledge that my ancestors paid a price for me to be able to vote and it did not include a dictator to inform me of what way to vote. My management staff is well aware of the way that I will be voting by my actions and attire being shown while not on duty. I was hired to do a job at walmart and that is what I do and since we will not have a polling site inside of a Walmart or Sam's Club on Nov.4th, then I will once again, exercise my right to vote my choice and feel good about my decision. On the flip side the management staff has honestly scared a lot of employees into thinking that they will be terminated and have to pay high prices for union dues should the democratic party nominee (Obama) take office.

Anonymous said...

Walmart is not ready for a black president or vice president being in office. If they had it their way, it would not be many as many black managers, which that was cut drastically, last May. I often wondered, if the Republicans wanted a female in office as the vice president, then why didn't he ask Condoleeza Rice instead of Palin. Condoleeza has the experience. It makes you think don't it??????? I wonder what Walmart would have thought about that!!!!