Skip to main content

We all know the rough outlines of how lousy Walmart is to its workers and to local economies. Biggest private employer in the United States, average annual salary of $15,500, viciously anti-union. Of course Walmart fires workers who show an interest in unionizing, and eliminates departments or closes stores that do so, but the constantly running campaign to squelch not just unions but any worker activity or organizing is much more sophisticated and pervasive. At Labor Notes, Adrian Campbell Montgomery details just how pervasive it was when she was trained as a Walmart assistant manager four years ago.

Rather than the course in computer systems, policies and scheduling she expected to receive, instead, the training consisted overwhelmingly of how to spot workers who were or might become disaffected:

We had a week-long schedule of anti-union sessions. They didn’t call them that, but essentially it was how to spot uprising employees.

We had an entire day devoted to word phrasing, looking at how employees use words and what key words to look for. A computer test consisted of a "what’s wrong with this picture?" game. You were shown the area near a time clock, and different handmade and computer-made signs. One sign said "Baby shower committee meeting Jan. 26, 8 pm." Another said "Potluck Wednesday all day in break room." Which one of those signs should raise alarms with management?

"Baby shower committee." Because of the word "committee," a manager would have to find the person who made the sign, find out why they used that word, then determine if the action got a warning or a write-up. If it was the store manager who found the sign, a write-up was almost guaranteed. They called it unlawful Walmart language, unbecoming a Walmart employee—words like "committee," "organize," "meeting." Even "volunteer" was an iffy word, and they would raise an eyebrow at "group."

Let's try that one on for size: "A spectre is haunting Walmart—the spectre of baby shower committees." Or, "Baby shower committee members of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains." (I admit it, that's not just a Walmartized but also a popularized version of the closing of Marx's Communist Manifesto.)

Of course, by the time an anti-union system has gotten around to getting worked up about baby shower committees, it's covered a whole lot of ground—as Montgomery's post relates, she was trained in or reprimanded about who she could and couldn't socialize with and what clothing could be in her locker while she worked. After all, a retail giant doesn't treat its workers this badly and still avoid unions by just sitting there.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Sep 01, 2011 at 09:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Income Inequality Kos, and Daily Kos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site