A Victory for Brave Walmart Workers

National Labor Relations Board rules the company violated employees’ rights Walmart workers won a significant victory in November when the National Labor Relations Board ruled against the company for its ongoing violations of workers’ rights.

The NLRB acted to protect Walmart “associates” who were fired or disciplined unfairly by Walmart after participating in strikes and other legally protected labor actions.

The ruling specifically dealt with the terminations of more than 100 workers who left their jobs in June to travel to Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., where they rallied near the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

The decision also addressed allegations of threats by management meant to discourage workers from participating in efforts to improve their pay and working conditions.

Walmart may be forced to reinstate the jobs of terminated workers, give them back pay and post notices informing employees of their labor rights.

This decision is a welcome outcome for the Walmart workers who sacrificed their time and wages, at the risk of losing their jobs, to tell the world how unfairly their company is treating them.    

Let’s hope it’s the first of many victories for all Walmart workers.

Why is it so important for us, as members of UFCW 8-Golden State, to support these non-Union workers at the world’s largest retail company?

It’s important because Walmart’s low wages and almost nonexistent benefits pose a serious threat to standards across the industry. Walmart leads a “race to the bottom” in which all retailers are feeling competitive pressure to limit the wages and benefits they provide for their own workers.

When Walmart is forced to change its ways and compensate its workers fairly, we will all benefit.

That’s why volunteers from our Union turned out to support Walmart employees at their Black Friday protests within our jurisdiction.

We all need to stand together and fight as one for the future of the middle class.

Solidarity Works!

People Before Profits

In April, more than 1,100 garment workers lost their lives when a shoddily-constructed building collapsed in Savar,  Bangladesh. 

Workers at factories in the eight story building made clothes for sale in retail stores around the world, including Walmart.

This tragedy followed another catastrophe last November, when a fire killed 112 people in a garment factory in Tarzeen, also in Bangladesh. The factory lacked basic building features like fire escapes.

More recently, in two separate incidents in June, several hundred garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, were hospitalized after drinking contaminated water at their factories.    

In response, 75 retailers in the West formed a safety pact with their subcontractors for stricter safety protocols. The five-year agreement, called the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, obliges the retailers to pay for building improvements.

Walmart, on the other hand, refused to act until it had a public relations disaster on its hands. Finally, after sustaining several weeks of criticism, the world’s largest retailer agreed to participate in a much weaker and unenforceable plan called the Global Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.

This “alliance” proposes to raise $50 million for factory safety improvements, but it requires the Bangladeshi government to first guarantee its accountability for safety standards in the country.

Of course,we already know the government is corrupt and is influenced by Bangladesh’s garment manufacturers.

Furthermore, the international Workers Rights Consortium, which helped design the original agreement, notes the actual cost of raising the safety standards of Bangladesh’s garment factories could amount to $3 billion. Walmart could afford increasing the size of the fund a hundred fold, but clearly doesn’t want to.

A recent Washington Post editorial explains correctly how free and strong Labor Unions are essential for cleaning up the messes at foreign factories and sweatshops. Unfortunately, many governments disapprove of Unions and those caught trying to form one are often intimidated or even killed.

No wonder an anti-Union entity like Walmart finds such countries to be attractive places to do business.

Broken promises

It’s difficult to trust Walmart will ever do the right thing for its employees. The company has an infamous record of disregard for the safety, health and economic well being of those who work in its stores and contracted factories and warehouses.

Jacques Loveall
Jacques Loveall
President, UFCW 8-Golden State
UFCW International Vice President
Walmart vowed last winter to reevaluate its scheduling policies, which have forced even more of its employees into erratic part-time work schedules in the process denying them health benefits. Halfway through 2013, we have not seen any change.

After its Mexican bribery scandal last year, the company vowed to cooperate with Mexican authorities and its own investors to reveal how long Walmart’s leadership knew about the bribes.

As of May, investors continue to pressure the company to fulfill its promises of transparency. According to an Associated Press report, “Walmart attorneys had taken a  persnickety and narrow approach to turning over documents requested by attorneys for large pension funds trying to find out what, and when, company directors knew of the payments.”

What we can do

Executives at Walmart will keep resisting changes necessary for becoming proper corporate citizens, but we can do our part to exert our influence. We can start by refusing to shop there until the company moves away from its anti-worker culture and begins respecting the rights of its work force.

For now, shopping at Walmart will only perpetuate the company’s ability to write off tragedies like the ones in Bangladesh as “unfortunate incidents” without any real consequences for the corporate bottom line.

What incentive does Walmart have to change when profits are high? When we shop in Union stores, we support companies with contracts guaranteeing employees are treated ethically and with dignity.

When we shop in Union stores, we demonstrate how the value of human life is more important than low prices.

Walmart needs to put its workers before profits and fulfill its promises to improve working conditions around the world. This includes enabling more of its employees in the United States to work full-time schedules, earn decent health benefits and enjoy dignity on the job and in retirement.

To learn more about how you and your family can continue to build Union strength, visit YourBreadAndButter.com.

Thank you for proving, once again ... 

Solidarity Works!

California Shows the Way for Unions

Last year was a strong one for Unions and working families in California. If only we could say the same for the rest of the country!

As Union membership continues to grow in California, fewer Americans in other states are enjoying the job security, higher wages and better benefits of a Union contract.

Why is this happening? What does California have that other states don’t?

California has been a bastion of Union pride and strength going back to the early 20th century. Longshore workers, public-sector workers, aerospace workers, film and television workers, farm workers and retail workers have all made their marks in the state’s storied history of labor activism.

What’s more, California has always attracted people who are ready to challenge the status quo, if that’s what it takes to win better lives for themselves and their families.

Working people in California can look ahead to a brighter future, but only if we remain vigilant and active in protecting Union market share in our state.
Jacques Loveall
Jacques Loveall
President, UFCW 8-Golden State
UFCW International Vice President
In order to promote continued growth and negotiate the strongest possible contracts, Union members need to halt and reverse the expansion of non- Union retailers in California. This means always shopping at Union stores.

In fact, we should purchase Union-made products whenever possible and take all of our business to Union-affiliated companies not just stores, but hospitals, offices and professional service providers as well.

The “Your Bread And Butter” campaign is geared to building public awareness and appreciation of Unions. This program deserves your support because it is key to building Union strength now and in the future.

To learn more, please read the article by Secretary-Treasurer Kirk Vogt  and visit YourBreadAndButter.com today.

Thank you for proving, once again ...

Solidarity Works!