The members and leadership of the Florida-based Wal-Mart Workers Association are unsung heroes of the Republican class war against working people. If you don't know them, their web site is here. As they explain on their "about us" page:
We are a group of current and former Wal-Mart workers, who want to make Wal-Mart a better place to work.
* affordable health insurance we can use
* fair and equal treatment of all workers
* decent wages
* a voice at work
We will join together with community supporters, and pursue public and legal actions, to make Wal-Mart an employer that treats its employess with dignity and respect and abides by the rules of our communities.
But you have to go to this new article in the indispensible publication, Labor Notes, to realize that the Wal-Mart Workers Association is kicking butt and taking no prisoners:
In one rural Florida town, over 20 percent of workers in the local Wal-Mart had their hours cut. In response, workers went into their community with a petition to reinstate the workers' lost hours, and collected 390 signatures in three days. Their hours were returned.
In South St. Petersburg, a popular third-shift employee was accused of theft and fired. The next day, half the day shift quit in protest. In another store, 20 workers marched on management after a 70-year-old workplace leader had her schedule changed. Her schedule was returned within days.
Several workers rode their bikes to work even though Wal-Mart didn't provide a bike rack. With some co-workers, they demanded management buy a bike rack. When management refused, they bought a rack with their own money and demanded that management install it. Management gave in, and donated the cost of the rack to a local charity.
This informal approach is not only innovative, but it is absolutely essential to fight a gigantic union-hating Borg like Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. If a Wal-Mart worker has to go through the National Labor Relations Board to organize, Wal-Mart will appeal until they reach retirement age. This group is interested in Wal-Mart workers helping themselves in the here and now:
"This is a protest movement of Wal-Mart workers uniting to make their lives better at work and in their communities," said Rick Smith, WWA organizer and Florida director of the Wal-Mart Association for Reform Now (WARN), a coalition of labor, community, homeowner, and anti-poverty groups. "It's about Wal-Mart workers sticking together, honoring their work, arranging carpools, and providing child care for each other."
Non-majority unions such as the WWA don't wait for a court to license workers' use of collective action. They harness that anger and ingenuity to both win day-to-day victories and launch longer-term pressure campaigns. The strategy has roots in industries in which union recognition is rare: retail chain workers, state workers, and computer programmers and manufacturers.
Most gratifying to me was reading the group's message of worker empowerment:
"We have the right to organization, regardless of what the boss or the state do," said Smith.
Amen brother. Amen.