The union battle continues against their Great White Whale, Wal-Mart. Last week, affiliates of the group Jobs with Justice began sending missives to Wal-Mart stores in several states, including Maine, where the flyers below originated. They try to claim that Wal-Mart has a “workplace dictatorship” and that their support for a secret ballot in union organizing elections is hypocritical because Wal-Mart doesn’t have votes in their workplace on other issues. No, seriously. The most amusing part of the campaign comes in the “Workers Ballot,” which unlike the cards in Card Check, doesn’t require its recipient to identify themselves. It does, however, ask the recipients to out other employees who want the union:
Throughout most of the letters and fliers attached, the affiliate — Food AND Medicine of Brewer, Maine — turns reality on their ear. They want Wal-Mart to allow a vote without making its own case to its employees, on its own property. The reference to “workplace dictatorship” is particularly revealing:
“This is an organization which has inserted itself into a public policy debate under the guise of standing up for workplace democracy. It would be one thing if they said they like a workplace dictatorship, which is what they currently have, or simply remain publically [sic] silent. But no, they have the gall to say that they are for workplace democracy when in fact they fight it tooth and nail, reportedly through a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign. Such hypocrisy by members of our community should be held accountable,” added Food AND Medicine director Jack McKay.
Where to start with this foolishness? In the first place, Wal-Mart has the same right everyone else has to speak on its own behalf for public policy it supports, especially when that policy directly impacts its business. For a guy who proclaims a belief in democracy, McKay wants to muzzle Wal-Mart an awful lot. Second, Card Check would allow unions to bully employees into forgoing the secret ballot through the use of signed cards that expose employees to harassment and intimidation. Why is McKay opposed to keeping a secret ballot requirement for union elections?
The “workplace dictatorship” argument is a non-starter, too. Employees can organize at Wal-Mart if they desire; so far, unions haven’t gotten much traction because not enough of them want union representation. The government outlines clear organizing rights for employees, and unions can file grievances if employers violate them — and have had no reluctance to do so. Otherwise, the employer has the right to set conditions for employment and to direct the work of the employees it pays to advance the purpose of the business, as long as it’s not violating the extensive laws that surround the employee-employer relationship. Wal-Mart’s defense of “workplace democracy” is wholly within the context of union organization, and even for union shops doesn’t make any sense beyond it. Unions don’t dictate the business plans of employers, or even vote on them; they focus on workplace environment and compensation.
If the unions stuck to the secret ballot, Wal-Mart would almost certainly embrace it, as that’s the law now. It’s the unions that want to change it.
Below are the rest of the materials from the flyers, which are equally absurd, right down to the 1950’s illustrations: