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Card Check, the UAW, and Wal-Mart November 22, 2008

Posted by Kate Ryan in Economy, National Politics, Unions.
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walmart-happy-faceAn article on MSNBC News this morning states that the Employee Free Choice Act, or the “card check” law, is the best hope for long-term sustainability of big unions such as the UAW.  Membership in the UAW is about 500,000 workers, down from an all-time high of 1.5 million in 1979.  Card check would force companies to recognize Unions and bargain if a majority of workers signed cards agreeing to become union members.  Currently, a union can ask for an election by “secret” ballot if 30% of workers sign cards.  The time to arrange for such an election and campaign is often used by employers to harass and intimidate workers and the election often fails.

Card check is especially important for auto workers in “right-to-work”states, generally located in the south and west.  Of course, this is where foreign automakers such as Toyota, Honda, and Volkswagon have set up shop.   These workers are effectively prohibited from collective bargaining over wages and benefits because the UAW can not gain a foothold in the plant.  Organizers are often fired, and since without a union they are “at will” employees, there is nothing that they can do.  When queried, more than 70% of non-unionized workers express their desire to join a union – and employers know this.  That is why they vehemently oppose the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and have spent millions of dollars on defeating it.  Nobody has done more on this front than Wal-Mart.

During the presidential campaign, Wal-Mart embarked on a massive mobilization to defeat Democrats whom it believed would rush through passage of the EFCA.  It required its store managers to hold meetings with the workers that basically said a vote for Obama was a vote to lose their jobs.  An August 1 Wall Street Journal article  stated”Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.” Though executives at Wal-Mart said that they were not telling employees how to vote…they were telling employees how to vote.

As a student of business, I have a grudging respect for Wal-Mart for creating their own shoppers.  Wal-Mart, in the relentless pursuit of the lowest prices, puts enormous pressure on suppliers to cut costs.  The suppliers, in turn, cut in the easiest area possible – labor.  Hundreds or thousands of people lose their jobs and must subsist on either unemployment or welfare benefits or jobs with severely reduced wages.  This, in turn, causes those formerly well-paid workers to flock to Wal-Mart for low cost items, and the cycle continues.  A card check law could help slow the increase in Wal-Mart’s core constituency.

I have not shopped in a Wal-Mart store in over five years.  I and my family have boycotted the store because of its ruthless treatment of its workers, suppliers, and host communities.  I would rather pay a dollar more for something at a store that supports its workers and their families through living wages and benefits than save money in the evil empire of Wal-Mart.

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Comments»

1. John - November 24, 2008

Hey, idiot-

I believe you meant to say “you’re”!

2. The Buzz » Blog Archive » Card Check, the Uaw, and Wal-Mart « Kate’S Kitchen Table - November 23, 2008

[…] Barack Obama · Christian Right · Democrats · Economy · Health Care · Hillary Clinton · Iraq War · National Politics · Obama Administration · popular culture · Presidential Politics · Racism · Republicans · Sarah Palin · Uncategorized …[Continue Reading] […]

3. MJK - November 22, 2008

Your an idiot.


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