the history of unions at wal-mart

A few days have passed and the anti-Wal-Mart fire is still burning bright in me. I’ve been googling the past hour (while watching the movie “Pootie Tang” with Linette and our friend Kristin) and the best article I’ve come across so far on the unionization of Wal-Mart is this three year old article from The Nation. You can find it, and other articles on America’s largest retailer at the Reclaim Democracy site. Here’s a clip:

A perpetually churning work force offers the added benefit, from management’s perspective, of keeping the union out. By its own admission, Wal-Mart burns through 70 percent of all new hires each year, a considerable number in a work force of over a million. As Bernie Hesse of UFCW Local 789 in the Twin Cities explains it, the paradox of retail organizing is “I’m working retail, this job sucks. If I don’t like it I’ll go get another job that pays $6.50 an hour.” While many retail workers don’t see their jobs as being worth a long, arduous battle for representation, they also cower at the real consequences of supporting a union: demotions, reduction in hours and “got any nachos ready”-style firings.

Although the union faces skepticism and fear among workers, it has discovered a few potent organizing issues — most notably, healthcare. Effective January 1, a full-time associate with two children and no spouse would pay $36 a week for basic coverage and $3.50 for dental, in addition to a $350 deductible for each individual on the plan. This tallies out to more than $3,000 a year for someone earning less than $16,000. Should it be any surprise that only 38 percent of Wal-Mart associates elect to have coverage? When the company announced a 30 percent hike in premiums this fall, it gleefully noted that associates had a “CHOICE to elect what will be done with 1/2 of the Wal-Mart contribution to our 401(k) account.” One of these so-called choices was to “direct it toward paying health care rates.” This change was illuminated in a video so slick that Sam’s Club (wholly owned by the Wal-Mart Corporation) cashier Alan Peto said, “If I didn’t know any better I really would have thought they had done me a big favor.”

Just for shits and giggles, dial (501) 273-8300. That’s Wal-Mart’s twenty-four-hour “Union Hotline,” designed for store managers to call on the first whiff of union activity. Your kind message will activate the beeper of an associate in Wal-Mart’s “People Division.” Assuming you are a store manager (and not a pinko prankster), your call will be promptly returned. If your associates are talking union, a flying column of unionbusters will be quickly dispatched to put out the fire.

It’s not really on-topic, but if Wal-Mart is the largest employer in the U.S., and if they churn over 70% of their new employees per year, how long until everyone in America has had the pleasure of working for “Mister Sam”?

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  1. Posted March 15, 2005 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    according to the hilarious “”, 1.2 million “associates” work at wal-mart right now. There’s about 300mil people in the United States. 70% of 1.2mil is 840,000. So like what, 300 years?

  2. mark
    Posted March 15, 2005 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    So, in another 75 years or so, 1/3 of all people in the United States will have worked for Wal-Mart? And that isn’t even factoring in their growth… That’s pretty amazing.

  3. Dick Cheney's Extending Taint
    Posted March 16, 2005 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Oh boy! Wal Mart math!!!

    Right now, about 65% of the population is of working age (15-65). So there are 200 million working Americans. 1.2 million work at Wal-Mart.


    1 out of every 200 American workers currently works at Wal-Mart.

    A 70% annual turnover rate means that 42 million people will work there during a 50 year span. In that same 50 years 400 million Americans will work in some capacity. So what are your chances of working at Wal-Mart at some point during your career?

    42/400 or…

    1 in 10!

    How do you look in a blue vest?

    This is neglecting population growth and Wal-Mart growth. Population growth reduces your odds, Wal-Mart growth increases them. When I spoke with a Wal-Mart construction VP about 5 years ago, he told me there were 900 stores under construction at that instant. Worldwide.


  4. Ken
    Posted March 16, 2005 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    I saw a factoid on that site Mark linked to that Wal-mart opens a new store every other day.

  5. chris
    Posted March 16, 2005 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    AND yet I have never shopped at one. I can’t wait for this new advertising campaign…”Antibiotics! Now only available at WalMart!”. OMG, I hope I haven’t given them any ideas.

  6. Posted March 16, 2005 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    If I remember correctly, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickled and Dimed discussed unionization at Walmart. (I supposed that I could go check the book, but I’ve got a few gigs of entertainment gossip that I have to get through tonight.)

    Liza Featherstone’s new book Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Worker’s Rights at Wal-Mart also might have something to add on the subject. It’s on my reading list, but I feel that I’ve already read most of it–my wife would quote passages from it in an outraged voice while she was reading it.

  7. Posted June 25, 2005 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Seriously after working as an assistant manager for more than two years I had a situation where I saw the wage of a male trainee who was making ten thousand a year more than I was…when I mentioned it they said I didn’t understand what I saw.

    Walmart Image…The Illusion of Clean….Thanks Mom!

    It will be posted…the article…the start of a book…at

    Or if in a hurry on

    It really hasn’t changed it’s image and all of it is “The Illusion of Clean”


    Julie Doering Pierce…”The Walmart Way” Not Sam’s Way…Walmart XIII AD

  8. Posted June 29, 2005 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    My feelings are that I have so much more.
    It is one thing to have billions of dollars to leave as a legacy and to your family. It is wonderful to have been able to do so many things that are good.
    Still, even with the loss of what I at one time felt I had I am at a loss to compare what I have to what they have.

    Billions of dollars, whether in cash, stocks, company holdings it

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