The world's largest corporation fears that workers will be able to unionize and seek better working conditions in the event that Barack Obama wins the presidency in November. Wal-Mart forced store managers and department supervisors to attend mandatory meetings in order to mobilize them against the Democratic candidate. The retail giant used fear tactics in the meetings, telling their managers that workers would be forced to pay huge union dues while receiving nothing in return. They also claimed that large numbers of jobs would be lost because unionization would cause labor costs to rise. It's really no wonder that Wal-Mart would be frightened of a unified, mobilized and proactive workforce, considering the corporation minimizes employee costs in order to increase its profits. They do that through low pay, discriminatory promotions, dehumanizing scheduling and poor benefits.
More after the flip
Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar claimed that the meetings were not scheduled in order to tell their employees how to vote. Mr. Tovar must have taken lessons in telling the truth from Karl Rove, at the University Of Lies=Truth. As one participant, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, put it:
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.' I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote.
Wal_mart may be the largest corporation ever to meddle in the voting habits of their workers, but this isn't the first time big business played an active and sleazy role in politics. As an action against organized labor this barely makes the radar, though.
Perhaps Wal-Mart craves a return to the days before the Norris-LaGuardia Act, passed in 1932. Before that law the government took an active hand in dealing with unions, right alongside with big business. Surprisingly, George Bush hasn't done more to turn back the clock on governmental policies toward strikers. Every wingnuts hero, Ronald Reagan, at least had the anti-union determination to fire the striking air traffic controllers. One would think W. would have called in Homeland Security on some small strike somewhere.
If nobody understands the difficulties labor activists have faced, they need only look at the example of Ludlow, Colorado in 1913. J. D. Rockefeller dealt with striking coal miners in probably the most brutal display of anti-labor in the history of our nation. It was called the Colorado Coalfield War by some, but most people called it the Ludlow Massacre. After months of conflict with the United Mine Workers of America, militia and hired special deputies turned machine gun fire on a tent city where the miners were living. After that they set the place on fire. Two women, eleven children and six mine workers burned to death. Maybe Wal-Mart wants to go back to those days.
Even after the Norris-LaGuardia Act many instances of terrible violence against labor activists have taken place in the United States. The "Little Steel Strike" of 1937 took place after United States Steel made a deal with strikers. Smaller companies, like Republic Steel, refused to follow their example. The Steel Workers Organizing Committe called a strike over it. The action culminated in horrific brutality in South Chicago on Memorial Day. Fred Gaboury describes the events of that day:
It was the first warm day of spring. Hundreds of steelworkers, on strike against the "Little Steel" companies and backed by hundreds of supporters, some dressed in their Sunday best, had come to assert the right of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) to establish a picket line at the gate of the Republic Steel plant.
The line was never established. Before day's end they would be attacked by an army of gun-toting, stick-wielding Chicago cops. Ten men would be dead or mortally wounded, countless others severely beaten and many more temporarily blinded by tear gas.
When people think about organized labor, they should think about how it was the workers who were victims in almost every case. Years and years of right-wing lies may paint unions and union members as villains, but it's big business that perpetrates the greatest wrongs.
Modern Americans sometimes lose touch with the past, and all of the blood, sweat and tears that went into making this nation one of the best places to live on the planet. Deregulation and the absolute coddling of mega-corporations has already undone a lot of the work that made the United States so great. Men like Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, would probably like to roll back the clock even more. While Mr. Scott earned $29.7 million last year for his work, it could have been so much more if he could have made working conditions in every Wal-Mart even more deplorable.
How dare they seek to force their managers and supervisors to campaign for their politics? One can only hope and pray that the men and women they dragged into the meetings have stronger minds and stronger wills than the Corporate Headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, give them credit for. If those men and women do the right thing, what's best for them and their families, and their employees and their employees' families, they will take the advice from the head office and toss it right out the window.