Why is Walmart so against union formation


"We are family"

How do we stay union free? Management manual

Heiner Köhnen had already reported in detail in express 6-7 and 8/2000 on the corporate policy of the retail giant Wal-Mart, which with around 1.1 million employees and US $ 165 billion in sales is by far the largest company in this industry worldwide [see Sectors: Services / Retail]. He had identified the concept of "community-based personnel policy" as an essential element of Wal-Mart's strategy for success. The fact that this label from the corporate culture debate means more than "motivation through decoration", but rather the targeted avoidance and suppression up to the suppression of approaches to the formation of a company-independent interest representation of the workforce, becomes clear when reading one from Wal-Mart specifically for this purpose developed "Handbook for Management", which we have in German translation and from which we are documenting excerpts below. Even if Wal-Mart in the FRG still adheres to the rules of the game that apply here at least de jure, the reading is likely to be "symptomatic". In one of the next issues we will be reporting on the machinations of Wal-Mart, especially in the countries of the so-called "3rd world" and the first steps towards the development of a transnational understanding and common strategy - despite the "sound family" of the employees.


Walmart’s stance on unions

As a member of the Wal-Mart management team, you are our first line of defense against unionization. It is important that you ...

  • Be constantly on the lookout for attempts by a union to organize your employees [1]
  • be constantly vigilant of any signs of your employees' interest in unions

This management manual has been compiled for you by your Labor Relations Team [2]. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the contents of this guide. It will provide you with valuable information on how to stay union free when union organizers [3] choose your company as their next destination. (...)


Attitude to trade unions

Walmart is strictly against third party representation. We are not against unions; we are for our employees. We want to maintain a workplace environment with open communication between all employees, both salaried employees and managers. At Wal-Mart, we respect the individual rights of our employees and encourage everyone to share their thoughts, suggestions, comments, and concerns. Because we believe that we can maintain an open communication workplace environment through our "open door" policy, we do not believe that third party representation is necessary. It is our position that every employee can speak for themselves without having to pay their hard earned money to a union to be heard and help solve problems.


The "open door"

Wal-Mart's "open door" policy is our greatest barrier to attempts by unions to influence our corporate culture and non-union status.

As a member of Wal-Mart's management team, you are responsible for ensuring that "... every employee can communicate verbally or in writing with a manager up to the board of directors at any time, at any level, in confidence, without fear of disadvantages ... ". When an employee uses the "open door" policy, it is the responsibility of managers to listen and respond. If we don't take care of the needs and concerns of our employees, they will find someone else to do so. And that someone can be a union representative!

It is important that our managers always have an interest in the needs and concerns of our employees. Take the time to develop positive relationships between managers and employees by using an "open door" policy. Open communication is key to stopping a union's attempt to organize operations before it even gets going. (...)


The facts about unions

Trade unions are not an association, a religious or social organization. You are "big business", a big company that has to make money. Unions don't make products or sell anything. But like all other companies, they too have to cover their costs in order to be able to continue their business.

And where do they get their money from? From the pockets of your members! A union's income flows in the form of membership fees, fees, fines and other contributions.

With union membership declining in recent years, new membership is more critical than ever for unions to survive. Wal-Mart is an attractive destination for unions because of the large number of people we employ.

It is important that employees know the facts about unions. Organizers can promise them more money, better perks, anything to get them to sign letters of attorney [4]. It is imperative that our employees know what unions can and cannot do for them.

Unions cannot

  • guarantee higher wages
  • guarantee better additional services
  • Guarantee employment
  • guarantee the amount of working hours
  • Prevent dismissals
  • Set workplace standards

Unions can

  • negotiate
  • Collect contributions, fees, fines and other contributions
  • strike


Union Authorization Cards

A union will try to organize your business in one of three ways:
1. A union organizer approaches your employees.
2. Unsatisfied employees find a union organizer.
3. a union organizer seeks work in the company and tries to organize it from within; this is also known as "salting" [5].

Regardless of which of these three organizing methods is used, the primary goal of the organizer is to get the employee's signature under the authority.

The law requires a union that at least 30 percent of all employees in a company have signed such letters of authority before they can petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election.

If a union has the signatures of more than 50 percent of the employees, it can try to bypass an election by asking the NLRB to be recognized as a representative of the employees in negotiations on the basis of this majority.

If you find or hear such authorizations in your company that employees attend union meetings and sign such cards, it is imperative that you immediately contact our union hotline at 501-273-8300. Wal-Mart must respond immediately to this type of union activity and stop signing the cards before the required 30 percent signatures have been reached.

Union representatives use various tactics to get employees to sign letters of authority. The employees are told that their signature on this card is only there to

  • to request a choice
  • to request additional information.

That is not true!

When employees sign such a card, they are actually signing a legal document authorizing the union to represent them collectively in negotiations on all matters relating to their terms of employment.

Let's take a look at a typical power of attorney:

"I hereby authorize UFCW, Local 7, (...) to represent me collectively in relation to my employer with regard to wages, working hours and other employment conditions."

Note that the card says nothing about elections or any additional information about the union. Point this out to your employees. (...)


Sample questions and examples

Question: What is Wal-Mart's position on unions?
Answer: At Wal-Mart, we don't believe we need third party representation. We appreciate the open communication that exists between management and our employees. You can come to me at any time and talk to me about your work or other concerns.

Question: What is a union organizer?
Answer: Most unions have a staff of representatives called "organizers". These people are paid by the union to organize a company.

Question: Do I have to speak to a union organizer?
Answer: no. Employees are not required to speak to a union organizer.

Question: Are union organizers the only people who will try to get me to sign a power of attorney for the union?
Answer: No, the union organizer will use those who are in favor of the union among the employees of a company to try and get your signature on such a declaration.

Question: The union organizer "promised" an increase in wages and benefits. Can an organizer guarantee that this will happen?
Answer: no. Union organizers can and will make promises to employees in order to get their signature under the powers of attorney. If an organizer promises a special service, ask for a written confirmation. You should know that the organizer will not make the promise in writing.

Question: Why should organizers tell me about everything they can do for me when in reality they can't?
Answer: Organizers will tell you all they need to know in getting your signature on a power of attorney to help. If a union representative makes promises to you, the best thing you can do is to get them confirmed in writing.

Question: Can a union guarantee job security and prohibit Wal-Mart from dismissing employees or judging them if they violate company rules?
Answer: no. Unions may claim they can create "job security", but in reality they cannot. All employees are subject to performance appraisals up to and including the possibility of termination if they do not meet our company's expectations.

Question: Can a union remove a member of management because they or employees believe that manager is unfair?

Answer: no. Only the company has the right to decide who its executives will be. (...)


Published in: Express - newspaper for socialist company and trade union work - issue 1/2001


1) Wal-Mart refers to the company's employees as "associates". The term "associates" means both employees and colleagues. The use of this term is primarily intended to emphasize the involvement of the employees in the Wal-Mart family; conflicting interests are denied; Note d. Red.

2) Labor Relations Department, part of the Legal Department; Note d. Red.

3) An organizer in the US is a full-time trade unionist whose main job is to organize businesses. This is only to a very limited extent comparable to that of a trade union secretary in our country; Note d. Red.

4) Originally: Union authorization cards, literally: Union authorization card. For the sake of simplicity, the term power of attorney is used here. In this way, the employees of a company declare that they are to be represented by the relevant union.

5) Something like: "Infiltration"; Note d. Red.

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