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2008-08-04
Washington, D.C. Why Are Obama Voters Still Shopping At Wal-Mart?

The Wall Street Journal carried a page one headline on August 1st that has shaken up electoral politics, and given Wal-Mart corporate executives one more problem to dance around. "Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win," the story read. According the WSJ, Wal-Mart workers were instructing its hourly workers how to vote in November's presidential election. "The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don't specifically tell attendees how to vote in November's election, but make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states. The meeting leader said, 'I am not telling you how to vote, but if the Democrats win, this bill will pass and you won't have a vote on whether you want a union,' said a Wal-Mart customer-service supervisor from Missouri. "I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote," she said." The retailer responded to worker complains in several states by telling the newspaper, "If anyone representing Wal-Mart gave the impression we were telling associates how to vote, they were wrong and acting without approval," said the Wal-Mart spokesman. Wal-Mart acknowledged that the meetings were taking place for store managers and supervisors nationwide." According to the WSJ, "Federal election rules permit companies to advocate for specific political candidates to its executives, stockholders and salaried managers, but not to hourly employees. While store managers are on salary, department supervisors are hourly workers." The group Wal-Mart Watch issued the following statement regarding Wal-Mart's crude electioneering: "Today's Wall Street Journal demonstrates once again that Wal-Mart intimidates its workers. Whether it is locking them in the company's stores, pressuring them to keep working even after they have clocked out, or giving them 'instruction' about their vote, Wal-Mart has consistently exhibited unique examples of unethical behavior that often raise legal questions. We have been receiving the reports described in the Journal for the past week. Some of the reports we received were even more egregious than what was described in today's story. In one case, a worker said they were shown a slide that said 'Obama = union' and then were told why unions were bad. The stories cited in the Journal are consistent with the numerous stories we hear from employees across the nation every day about Wal-Mart's intimidation tactics. All of these tactics seem to be designed to keep workers from demanding better wages, decent benefits or fairer working conditions. Wal-Mart seems willing to do anything to maintain a status quo in which the company pays poorly, refuses to compensate workers for time worked, discriminates against workers and offers poor benefits. Wal-Mart wants its workers to believe it has their best interests at heart, but as workers told us this week when coming to us with these stories, they know better. The current Wal-Mart culture is good for Wal-Mart executives."

What you can do: A second group, American Rights At Work, is disseminating a petition to the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether or not Wal-Mart's communications with its workers violated federal law. The group writes: "We couldn't believe the front page of today's Wall Street Journal. Have you seen it? Wal-Mart has been threatening employees to not vote for pro-worker candidates like Barack Obama in November because they support the Employee Free Choice Act. If passed, the bill would make it easier to form unions in stores like Wal-Mart. Telling employees how to vote in a U.S. election is not only morally reprehensible, it's potentially illegal. So we're starting a petition to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), asking for an investigation into Wal-Mart's electioneering. Can you sign on? Ask the Federal Election Committee to investigate Wal-Mart's potentially illegal intimidation. Wal-Mart is stretching the bounds of legality with these outrageous tactics -- it's illegal for companies to advocate for political candidates to hourly employees... Wal-Mart threatens workers who try to form a union, flying in a union-busting team any time there's a whiff of union activity. Workers at Wal-Mart face threats, propaganda, discrimination, intimidation, and even firings in retaliation for trying to improve their lives and working conditions. But this is a new low -- one that goes to the very core principles of our democracy. We need to show Wal-Mart -- and other anti-union companies -- that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. Ask the FEC to immediately investigate if Wal-Mart broke any laws. All of America's workers have the right to freely decide whom to vote for independent of employer pressure and intimidation. And all of America's workers should have ability to form a union free of employer pressure and intimidation... Such allegations demand an immediate investigation by the Federal Election Commission. Not only do Wal-Mart employees need assurances that they can vote how they please in November, other companies need to be discouraged from doing the same. No one should be told how to cast their ballot. Please forward this message to friends and family and let them know what's going on. Thank you for helping us call attention to this latest outrage." To sign onto the petition, go to www.AmericanRightsatWork.org










 
 
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